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Own Your Health: Mobility

Young athletes need to take 100% of the responsibility for their physical health.  

One of the most obvious differences in players as they progress through the various levels in hockey is the ability to be consistent on the ice.  Being consistent means showing up to compete every time there is a practice or a game. Sounds easy, but there are some hurdles that need to be addressed.

It is not the coach’s job to make sure you show up ready to compete.

During the season a player’s conditioning approach is generally dictated by the team’s coach.  This conditioning plan usually has one thing in mind, achieving the coach’s technical or tactical goal. Meaning, coach wants their players conditioned well enough on the ice to carry out the game plan. 

This approach generally doesn’t get broken down much further than that.  Most coaches are not trained in the minor details of strength and conditioning.  Topics like specific work and rest cycles are generally neglected. 


Another common oversight during on-ice conditioning is determining what is the best intensity marker for that day.  Plenty of coaches, at no fault of their own, have no idea where their athletes are at when it comes to stress. These athletes could be playing other sports, have stress of academics, or personal issues that are impacting recovery.  In today’s world, more than ever, there are many sources of an athlete’s stress. As a coach, maybe if you are lucky you get some data on your athletes or you might have a strength coach who may be looking at various stressors.  

In the general population of junior programs, AAA programs or other developmental leagues coaches are just skating their players to get them in better shape.  If, as a player, you happen to run into a coach who has a good understanding of what these training concepts look like and how to rest in between drills or how to create different distances and starting patterns to improve, you are thankfully in good hands so pay attention at practice.  

If you don’t run into that don’t worry. Start to take an active interest in your body and be 100% responsible for your own health and performance. 

Let’s walk through how you can begin to take charge:

What are the big rocks you need to take care of?

  • Recovery Management 
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep

What is recovery management? 

We have three broad recovery categories: 

  • Mechanical 
  • Nutritional 
  • Mental 

We then apply various aspects of those three categories (Mechanical, Nutritional, and Mental) to the big 5 daily habits:

  • Recover
  • Rehydrate
  • Refuel
  • Rebuild Muscle
  • Improve future performance

Mechanical Recovery

Mechanical recovery is a form of individual health care and is focused on making sure the joints in your body can get into the right position to absorb, redirect and amplify movements associated with the sport.

Nutritional Recovery

Nutritional recovery is a mindful approach to making sure you are giving your body the right mix of nutrients to look and perform its best.

Mental Recovery

Mental recovery is a broad term for addressing the various aspects of the nervous system that are involved with improved performance from stress reduction to learning new skills. This is an area that has a dramatic impact on performance across the board. 

In this blog post, we’re going to dig a little deeper on mechanical recovery.  

Let’s take into consideration that certain soft tissue or massage modalities will improve your ability to recover from training or practice.  These same concepts can be used to help prepare the body for competition. Start by figuring out a way to add more consistent mobility and soft tissue work to your life. This includes:

  • Dynamic stretching/movement assessment routine
  • Compression
  • Breathing reset and muscle activation routines 

It’s not easy, with a busy schedule it can be challenging to build a new habit.  With mechanical recovery, a little bit of repetition goes a long way when we’re talking about soft tissue health.  

For this type of big return on your time investment, you need a smart approach to mobility and in my humble opinion, unfortunately, foam rolling is just not enough.  

To be more effective, start with some type of structured dynamic mobility program.  Some examples of dynamic mobility programs include:

  •  Yoga Push-ups
  •  Step back and lateral lunge with overhead reach
  • Tripod lunge with rotation
  •  90/90 hip stretch
  • Side lying rotation

This should function as both a movement screen to hone in your additional mobility work as well as a general warm-up and mobility tool.  Once you have identified some key restrictions (hips, spine, shoulder) add some focused, loaded, static tissue pressure or well controlled joint movements.  

For the static pressure or slow controlled work, focus on anything that might be giving you some pain or tightness during your dynamic motions. Be systematic and engaged in the process and don’t be afraid to retest the dynamic movements after the focused work to see if there are improvements.  

This test, re-test method helps you make sure that you are not wasting any time in your prep work. Now that your joints are moving and your nervous system is ready, start to add some speed to your warm-up and get some blood flowing.

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