As summer winds down, many Okotoks hockey players are gearing up for the upcoming season.

And with evaluations just around the corner, that can involve regaining fitness levels that may have declined over the summer months.

Okotoks Skating Club head coach Kerri Roberts says interval training can be key to hockey conditioning success.

"If you're in that position where you've taken the summer off, I think that's great," Roberts says. "I hope you've kicked the ball and jumped in the pool. I think there's a lot of value there. When it comes to skating, and hockey especially, it's an anaerobic alactic sport, which means that it's a high intense energy system.

She explains interval training can be done outdoors, at home or at a gym.

"Essentially what those kids want to do is get themselves to a maximum heart rate as quick as possible, stay at their maximum heart rate for about 30 to 40 seconds and then be able to recover quickly," she says. "Ideas could be setting up an little interval training circuit within your house, maybe doing some squats or some jumps and some skipping, with a little bit of a rest period in between."

She points out that, during hockey evaluations, as players aim to be first to make the puck, they will be reaching maximum heart rate so it helps to be physically prepared for that level of exertion. She adds that when it comes to evaluations, making productive use of time spent on the bench can also be critical and she recommends focusing on lengthening and deepening breaths and doing a quick self-evaluation of performance.

"So if you think about a hockey evaluation, or the hockey game itself, typically those kids are on the ice for 45 seconds, maybe a minute, and in evaluations especially, you want to be pushing as hard as possible," Roberts says. "But then when you get back on the bench, you want your body to come to a recovered heart rate so that when you're on that next shift, you can do the same thing again."

Roberts adds that properly-fitted equipment and properly-sharpened skates, along with stretching, proper nutrition and a good night's sleep will all help young athletes perform at their best when they hit the ice. She also stresses that proper hydration is a key component that should not be overlooked.

"When you're an athlete, hydration is absolutely critical," she points out. "Sometimes I think people miss the boat on it. They think, 'Well, I'd better bring a really big water bottle to training.' Actually, it's the water that you drank yesterday that is what's hydrating you today."

She says beyond all the hours spent getting skills in shape for the season and all the time spent skating in evaluations, there's one important component to the sport that young players should try to keep in mind.

"This game is fun and that's what it's supposed to be," she says. "Even after all the evaluations are done, at the end of the day, you're going to end up on a team playing the game you love. So, take those jitters or butterflies that you have going in and trust and know that's normal. You should be a little bit nervous. That just means you care and so put it into some quick energy."

The Okotoks Skating Club is running Power Skating sessions starting Monday, August 28 and running until Friday, September 1. Registration is online at the Okotoks Skating Club website.

Questions, comments, or story ideas? Email us at [email protected]

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