We all know that ice time is as hard to come by as a 50-goal scorer, and just as valuable. You shouldn’t have to spend time at the beginning of your practice session stretching and warming up. There are things you can do before stepping on the ice. The key is to get your muscles moving and the blood circulating before you do stretch so your muscles can get the most out of it.
Go for a short run before practice. Not only is this a great way to get the heart pumping, it can be a good team-building exercise. You can also play soccer or hacky-sack if space allows. You don’t want to be playing in the parking lot or in the street, but if there’s a field or open area inside the rink these are fun ways get the feet moving, the blood pumping and muscles warmed up.
Stickhandling a golf ball, tennis ball or wooden ball will help warm up your hands, arms and upper body. You can even pass the ball with a teammate.
Once you hit the ice you want to break a sweat and get the heart pumping and upper body and legs moving. Then you’re ready for practice. Skating around the rink and speeding up between the blue lines is not the only way to get moving. Playing small area games like 3-on-3 or keep away are fun ways to get in the flow of practice. You’re also practicing valuable skills while having fun and warming up.
Not only are you warming up your muscles, you’re also warming up your mind, getting it ready to compete. Too often kids come to the rink and head straight for the locker room to suit up before hitting the ice. Being physically active will help you get mentally prepared to practice or play a game.
Remember This …
Most of us are familiar with static stretches, where the body is not moving from one place to another, such as groin or hamstring stretches. Too many coaches believe static stretching is warming up. It’s not. You want to work on dynamic stretches, which involves swinging your arms, legs and rotating your hip joints. Not only will this help warm up your muscles, it will improve your flexibility.