Monday, March 3, 2014

Winter Cross Training

This blog has offered a lot of helpful information in the past (probably a little too much, if we’re honest) about cross-training in the form of the board game Backgammon. There’s been articles about how to incorporate Backgammon in to your weekday training, Backgammon history and helpful strategic tips, a video that helps you learn Backgammon in 15 seconds, and even an interview with Neil van der Ploeg, competing at the UCI WorldTour in the Tour Down Under, that pretty much exclusively revolves around Backgammon.

But with the recent Winter Olympics in Russia annoyingly cutting in to the cycling content in our newsfeeds and TV time – and with surprisingly little unrest over Russia’s controversial ‘gay propaganda’ laws – this seems like a good time to take a look at a winter sport that can be useful as a cross-training tool for cyclists.

It’s a sport that is not all that popular in Australia, but is certainly growing. I speak, of course, about Ice Hockey – or as it is known in some parts “6-Man Frigid Puck Sliding”, which is not to be confused with the rather obscure summer sport of “43-Man Squamish”, which was popularised back in the 1960s.

So here are some great reasons why Ice Hockey is a fantastic cross-training tool for cyclists looking to get the edge.

Obviously, nobody enjoys cycling in winter, that’s why Cyclo-Cross was invented back in the early 20th century as a way for European road cyclists to stay fit during the winter months when training on the road bike was uncomfortably cold, wet and windy. But Ice Hockey, as the name implies, is a sport designed specifically to be played in a winter climate, on ice, which means that it is an ideal sport to keep you both fit and motivated during the cold winter months.
Nobody enjoys road cycling in Winter, so why not try Cyclo-Cross or Ice Hockey to mix things up a bit?

The primary mode of transport in Ice Hockey is skating, although this is closely followed by sliding on your bum, face or stomach, even at the highest professional level.
If you can manage to stay upright though, skating is a great activity for building up your quadriceps, which are very useful muscles for delivering power on the bike. Just look at the impressive thighs on Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis (as well as almost every speed skater throughout history).
If you can manage to keep up the ice skating training over winter then by summer you might come out looking like German track cycling star Robert Förstemann – and probably need to purchase some new jeans.
Ice Hockey probably won’t help you tactically with your cycling but it can certainly help improve your stability, strength and confidence, which are important for those high-speed sprint finishes that are often fraught with danger.
A bit of practice on the ice should help with maintaining your poise in bunch sprints.

But while Ice Hockey might look very dangerous, compared with cycling, you can at least always be confident in the quality of the surface that you are competing on, thanks to the wondrous Ice Resurfacing Machine, commonly referred to as a Zamboni.

The Zamboni magically materialises between periods (specifically thirds) to add a shiny new layer of smooth ice to the surface of the rink. It’s an impressive sight, especially when it's painted like this.

Road cycling is also no stranger to the amusement that can be generated by motor vehicles, but just imagine how much better this scene could have been with the addition of a Zamboni.
So if you think that Ice Hockey might be a great way to keep fit during winter then head on down to your local ice rink and see about joining up to a league. Depending on where you live this might be more difficult than it sounds. For example, if you live in Ontario, Canada then you’ll have over 270 rinks to choose from while if you live in Victoria, Australia, your choices are limited to 2.

Obviously you’ll need to invest in some equipment such as skates, padding, helmet and stick among others, and even more specific stuff if you are the goal tender (goalie or net minder). But if you are clever and willing to think outside the box you can probably manage to salvage and reallocate some of your old cycling equipment.
And don’t forget to dig out all those old bidons that have been sitting in your cupboard, because although Ice Hockey is cold, it is still thirsty work.

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