What to do in the Post Season: Active Recovery
By: Jerry Hotarek, CSCS
The end of a season can often times feel bitter sweet. You find yourself wishing there was more time during the season but now that it is all over, now what? The simplest answer, REST. Participation in multiple sports can not be overstated enough with the over saturation of year-round hockey going on everywhere. It is too much. While some view playing hockey during the off season as a way to get ahead, the athlete could be seriously hindering their overall athletic development. Possibly even increasing risk for long term injury. Rather than just talking about the negatives of early youth sport specialization and saying “play other sports,” let’s go a little deeper than that.
March-April can be referred to as the Post Season Active Recovery Phase (detailed in my blog entitled “Hockey Periodization Part I”). REST should not be confused with sit around, do nothing and play video games. It simply means a rest from hockey. During this phase, I place great emphasis on restoring muscle breakdown, lingering ailments, addressing injuries, and dynamic movement enhancement with our athletes. Essentially, you want to restore the body back to full health and neutral posture in preparation for an intense off season training regimen.
Tip: Pay close attention to the athlete’s posture and how hockey effects its neutrality. Hunched shoulders, forward neck, and over developed quads are common symptoms found in an athlete that lacks overall athleticism. Neutral spine and posture are critical to full range of motion in movement patterns and ultimately strength, power and speed.
During Post Season Active Recovery, the athlete should recover from the season without becoming completely sedentary. Develop a stretching and mobility routine to restore movement enhancements. (Routines can be found on my blog entitled, “Movement Enhancement”). Play a complimentary sport in the Spring, even just recreationally; baseball, tennis, golf, lacrosse, etc… A personal favorite of mine is the participation in martial arts. Martial arts demonstrate a lot of the same mental toughness standards much like in ice hockey and can be a great way to develop overall athleticism.
Resistance training and conditioning are also great tools for development. In older athletes it is pretty much now a pre requisite before advancing to elite levels and now we see more younger 14&U athletes participate. Our program has two groups, Varsity (16U, Junior, College) and Junior Varsity (14&U). Each group has strength and conditioning protocol that is age appropriate. During the Post Season Active Recovery Phase, we place a lot of emphasis on restoration and rebuilding strength. Many do not realize that there are safe and effective methods for 14&U athletes to build strength, power and speed without the use of weights. Currently, we will run 2 strength + movement sessions a week and have added 1 conditioning day that ends with a pick up rugby game. Just an example of what a common off season training schedule might look like.
To avoid misinterpretation, no one is suggesting you quit hockey in the off season or stop playing altogether. Simply making the suggestion of a practical approach that promotes optimal development in the off season. Play shinny once in a while with friends, if the fire is still burning play on a Spring team. Just make sure your eyes are set on the importance of being a complete athlete. After Post Season Active Recovery Phase comes an intense training regimen during the Off Season Phase (May - August, also detailed in my blog, “Hockey Periodization Part I”). My advice would be to seek guidance in careful planning through an experienced strength coach or mentor; someone who has been through the hockey mill. Enjoy the off season, it doesn’t last long!
Jerry Hotarek is the owner and founder of Strength Edge Athletics in Belmont, CA.