For the average person, once middle age hits, gone are the days of showing up for a physical activity and performing right out of the gate. To get anywhere near firing on all cylinders, one needs to get their body properly warmed up first. This is especially true for a sport like ice hockey where the body is put through constant intervals of high intensity. Quite often, if you aren’t fully ready and push to your limits too soon, you end up never quite catching up to yourself or worse, sustaining injury. Like with most recreational sports, the problem is there’s not always a lot of time to do a proper hockey warm up before play, so you have to do the best you can with the time and resources available. Here’s a 4-step plan to help you get ready to perform your best for your next game.
DYNAMIC WARM UP
Back in the day, “warming up” consisted of standing in place and touching your toes. Sport science has come a long way since then and we’ve learned that stretching cold muscles (or “static” stretching) is no longer recommended and can actually lead to injury. A more preferred approached is to slowly engage your muscles in a series of light motions tailored to the activity you are about to perform.
For hockey, this means engaging your hips, glutes, and core – key muscle groups for the skating motion. At your next game, get dressed and head out rinkside a little earlier than normal, perhaps while the Zamboni is prepping the ice, and do a series of the following motions:
Front/Back Leg Swings
- Turn sideways to glass and brace yourself with one hand
- With weight on one skate, lift the other leg and swing forward and backwards
- Start with a small range and gradually increase as you get looser
- 15 swings per leg
Sideways Leg Swings
- Stand in front of something you can hold (the outside of the rink boards or glass works well)
- With body weight on one skate, lift the other foot off the ground and swing it out to the side and then back across your body to the other side
- Start with a small range and gradually get wider as you get looser
- 15 swings per leg
- Stand in place well clear of any obstacles or people
- Hold your stick across your shoulders and twist from your core from left to right
- 15 twists in each direction
Now that you have the blood flowing to the skating muscle groups, it’s time to engage in the skating motion, get your heart rate up, and engage the lungs. When it’s time to take the ice start by skating a number of light laps around the rink. (You probably already do this.) Begin with long, slow strides and gradually mix in shorter bursts of higher intensity, but no need to go hard yet. Once you’ve skated enough to feel your heart rate bump up and breath a bit harder, find a spot on the ice off to the side and out of the way.
With your body now primed and more accepting of physical motion, it’s time to do some fundamental static stretches. These are stretches where you push and hold your muscles within a comfortable range of motion. What stretches you do may come down to personal preference and where you feel the tightest, but the focus should remain on your quads, glutes, hip flexors, and core.
After some targeted stretching, return to the ice and resume your normal warm-up routine, whether it be stick handling, passing with a teammate, or shooting on your goalie. Try to work in different speeds and intensities.
Shy of a full pregame hockey warm up session like many college & pro teams get, you are likely not going to get your body remotely close to the intensity a full shift of hockey brings before your game. With that in mind, continue to ease in with your first 2-3 shifts. Early in the game, try to keep your shifts extra short, perhaps a good 0:15 shorter than normal. Resist the temptation to fully “red-line” your body. By no means should you not backcheck if that’s what play dictates (don’t hang your teammates out to dry!), but make smart plays and try to control the game in a way that you stay in front of the play, and aren’t forced to skate at your absolute hardest yet.
LET IT RIP
After those first few shifts are in the bag, you’re ready to soar. With a short routine of dynamic hockey warm up motions, light skating/cardio, targeted static stretches, and smart play for the first few shifts of the game, your body will be raring to go.
JOIN SHINNY USA!
Now you that you know how to warm up for a game, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice during one of our adult pick-up hockey programs! Whether you’re a casual, morning player, someone who likes to participate in friendlies on the weekends, or looking for a more competitive league, Shinny USA has you covered! Sign up today, regardless of your skill level, and we’ll follow up with a confirmation and more information regarding what program we feel will work best for you.