Off-ice recovery has a significant effect on on-ice performance, but most hockey players neglect it completely. The first 30 minutes after you get off the ice are critical to starting the recovery process and preventing injuries and burn-out this season.
There are 3 key components to proper recovery that hockey players must address if they want to feel and play their best day after day:
While many players do dynamic warm-ups before hitting the ice, very few do a cool-down afterwards. For the majority of young hockey players, the cool-down involves taking off your equipment, and jumping into the car for the ride home. A player's body needs to “come-down" after the ice in the same way that they need to “ramp up" for each session. When you neglect to perform a thorough cool-down after a tough practice or game, your muscles will feel heavy and tired. By performing 5 minutes of easy jogging immediately after getting off the ice, players can prevent blood and lactate from pooling in their legs, which will reduce muscle stiffness and soreness.
Players don't need to spend a lot of time stretching every muscle in their body in order to recover properly. Spending 10 minutes performing a few critical stretches after your cool-down jog is all you need. Players should perform stretches that address their “hockey-specific" muscles - hip flexors, quadriceps, glutes and groin. By holding these stretches in a comfortable position for 1 minute each, players will alleviate muscle soreness, prevent injury and put themselves in a great position to perform their best in their next ice session.
Post-activity nutrition and hydration are just as important as completing the cool-down and stretching routines, and are also generally ignored by players. Immediately after getting off the ice, a player's body is in a heightened state to rebuild its energy stores and they need to get food and fluids in them quickly. Whether it is in the form of chocolate milk and a bottle of water or a sports drink with yogurt and a banana, the key is to get re-fuel and re-hydrate fast.
Completing a proper recovery routine after each on-ice session can be the difference between having a mediocre year and having your best season ever. Make the most of the 30 minute “recovery window" this season and you will take your performance to the next level.
Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS is a Athletic Development Specialist and founder of Total Female Hockey. In addition to training and coaching players at all levels of hockey, from novice to the National team, Kim has also played at the highest level of women's hockey in the world for the last decade. Kim's player development website gives the coaches and parents of aspiring young players access to the most up-to-date programs, articles and advice on how to help their players take their game to the next level. To learn more about recovery strategies and find out how you can have your best season ever, sign-up for your FREE newsletter at: http://www.totalfemalehockey.com