We’ve all seen those practices where the coach forces his players to run laps outside the hockey rink once ice time is over. However, is long distance running really necessary or smart for youth hockey players? The answer is, most of the time, no.
Hockey is a game that requires a lot of strength, which is why most hockey workouts are conditioning-based. This means their focus is on building muscle, not on burning fat or getting the heart pumping. The reason for this is because the game, other than in a few short bursts, doesn’t require a ton of cardiovascular exercise. It’s more about strength, stability, and stamina.
The Exception to the Rule
Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule.
In some cases, it may be good to have your players –or at least some of them- work to incorporate running or other cardiovascular exercise into their regimes.
If, for example, you have a player who is overweight and/or has too high a percentage of body fat, running and cardio could help this person to drop the extra fat. This, in turn, would help the player to achieve greater speed in control on the ice.
Running can also be useful for injured players who can’t easily participate in all of their usual exercises. In this matter, it’s a case of “something is better than nothing.” It’s better for injured players to get in a nice, low-impact workout like running if they can’t do other workouts. At the very least, running will help them to maintain their endurance and keep them from putting on extra bulk.
Keep it Short and Simple
As mentioned, hockey really only calls for quick, short bursts of energy.
For this reason, there’s no need to force your players to run for long periods of time or for long distances. In fact, doing so can actually be detrimental by reducing energy and potentially causing injury.
For players who do need to run, quick bursts of running for twenty to thirty minutes is all that is needed.
The bottom line is that conditioning workouts are more important for hockey players than cardiovascular ones in most cases. But, when cardiovascular exercises do need to be incorporated, keep them short and simple. Following these basic guidelines should benefit your players and your team as a whole by allowing them to focus on the exercises that are actually going to benefit them…instead of waste their time.