Having just finished a pre-season session with Stevenage Hockey Club, watching my hardcore attendees battle with running for the first time since the end of the season, I thought I would share with you thoughts in regards to pre-season training. I am massively open to suggestions and tips!
Why should you do some pre-season training?
In brief, pre-season training will improve your cardio-vascular capacity, so when you run on the pitch for the first time, you don’t feel like your lungs are going to leap out of your chest, screaming in panic. It will improve your strength and power, so you can smash that ball up the park. And it will improve your speed and agility, so you can ‘skin’ the opposition. These are all good enough reasons to get training straight away.
Pre-season training should be completed in order to minimise the risk of injury at the beginning and throughout the season. Although with experience, too much too soon can cause injury from the start, which is what we must try to avoid. Careful management of individuals may be required to optimise their training and minimise personal risk of injury. It can be argued that strength and conditioning training is as important, if not more, as skills and drills.
“However, maintaining a balance between work and rest is crucial throughout the year, as coaches cannot risk overtraining their young athletes, which may have a detrimental effect on an athlete’s performance and health.” (Stop Sports Injuries)
What fitness does it take to be a successful hockey player?
Successful hockey players need a good aerobic fitness in order that they can last the whole of the game. However, with rolling subs, it is easier to incorporate recovery times within that game period. You must be able to keep up with the pace of the game, remain on the pitch free of injury and fatigue, whilst maintaining speed, aerobic fitness, anaerobic ability and agility. A hard task, requiring all areas of fitness.
Here is how I like to carry out my pre-season training. I split it down into three phases, with each phase around 3 weeks long.
- Building phase – to build up stamina and aerobic endurance
- Strength phase – to build targeted muscles
- Power/explosive phase – to build up speed and agility in relation to game play
This is the phase I use to develop the anaerobic capacity and baseline aerobic fitness. There are many ways to improve the aerobic capacity, however my favourites are Fartlek training, Interval-based training and running.
Fartlek sessions – The principle of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running, are adapted for the level of fitness you are starting from. For beginners, jogging or walking can be used as your slower periods, and as your fitness increases, you can progress to fast and slow running. I also like to put some hockey specific movements in too, agility circuits, various efforts of intensity and backwards/sideways running, anything that can replicate the physical requirements and intensity of the game.
An example Fartlek session:
5 minute run
2 minute on / 2 minute off x4
1.5 min on / 1.5 min off x4
1 min on / 1 min off x4
5 min run
ON = Sprint
OFF = Jog
Interval training – Consists of alternating periods of high and low intensity activity. For example, can be high intensity sprints, with rest periods interspersed. Interval training will increase your aerobic base level of fitness and also develop your anaerobic energy system, allowing muscles to function more effectively without oxygen.
An example Interval session:
2 x 800m : 4 mins rest
2 x 400m: 2.5 mins rest
2 x 200m: 1.5 mins rest
4 x 100m: 45 sec rest
4 x 50m: 30 sec rest
Running – Depending on your current fitness levels, you should be building up your running capacity. Ideally you should be aiming for at least one run around 5K or 10K per week. Build up slowly – run for as long as you can and if you need to, walk for a minute before starting to run again. Continue this until your desired time. Start at 15 minutes and build up in 5 minute increments. Your mental strength should get you through.
I shall visit the strength, power and explosive phases in separate posts.
The start of the season, you will feel the difference – you’ll feel on top of the world for your first game!