The Physical Challenge Of Hockey

 By: Gray Rollins
Hockey is one of the most physically demanding games known to man. This intense sport requires that a skater have as much strategy and skill as football or baseball player in addition to the strength that only a conditioned athlete can bring to the ice, and a kind of ferocity that is a rare quality indeed. Hockey players must tolerate quite a bit of pain and discomfort, and serious players must be able and willing to participate in very heavy training all through the year to remain competitive. Unlike many sports that primarily require endurance, Hockey is all about sudden short bursts of extremely intense activity. This makes hockey a very different kind of physical challenge than a sport like soccer where movement is lower-intensity but continuous.

A hockey player must be able to rev their personal engine from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds. At the pro level, a hockey player rarely spends more than a full minute at a time actively skating on the ice. Between those brief flurries of almost manic activity, a player can recover and catch his or her breath, but must remain alert and in readiness for the next explosion of action on the ice. Suddenly jumping from a fairly passive and relaxed state to the height of speed and power isn't easy. The discipline and talent a hockey player must posses in order to do this well are often a large part of what separates the amateurs from the professionals.

The need to be able to swiftly transition from a state of rest to one of peak activity requires specific forms of training that focus on shortening response times and achieving graceful and efficient movement without much of a warm up. A hockey skater's workout regimen contains many predictable activities like lifting weights and jogging, but one place where many players go in order to improve their agility and response time proves to be somewhat surprising to many sports fans.

Although classical music and pink tulle are the last things most people associate with the rough and tumble sport of hockey, many players train at ballet studios. From young boys and girls who are in amateur junior leagues all the way up to Olympic-level hockey players, spending time refining plies at the ballet barre often proves to give skaters a leg up on the ice.

From dance studios to weight rooms to jogging tracks, a hockey player must train his or her body in a variety of ways to prepare for what many consider the most physically demanding of all sports. Between the strenuous flurries of activity, the psychological stress of performance, the lack of warm up time, and the bulky padding of a hockey uniform, a player at the top level of competitive hockey may sweat away up to eight pounds of water weight during the course of a single game. There is no other sport where this kind of drastic weight loss due to exertion happens so quickly. A hockey player's body must be prepared to safely weather this kind of ordeal on a regular basis, which requires a level of physical fitness that few other sports require.
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