This off season/pre season has been different from others that I’ve had, for many reasons. I don’t think that ever during my career my body (and mind) were so beat from the season. The mind pretty much due to the concussion rather than the mental strain from the season.
So for the first time in my life I was faced with a wholly new challenge. My hip was in a pretty bad shape, my head was a total mess and I was tired. Pretty much from finishing the last game of the season I knew that the summer was going to be far from easy, but then again, hockey doesn’t really give you a long summer holiday.
I think I gave myself about a week off from the ice and then started to hit the gym. While it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do with the ongoing concussion symptoms, I needed to do something. Running made my head feel worse and the doctors said that I was OK to do light weights and go easy. Too bad I have a different idea of going easy to the doctors.
So I was able to train really hard through April and I thought that I had overcome the concussion issues. My body started to feel better and I felt stronger physically, but I was still hitting a wall. I was helping out at one of my wife’s trainings on the ice and I was doing a regular skating drill we did throughout the season. I was probably going at about 60% and I just literally didn’t know what the hell was going on. I went pale, blacked out and almost passed out. From skating at about 60%.
This then lead to heated debates and arguments about what I should and shouldn’t be doing and being a bone head I told everyone to STFU and let me decide what’s best for me. As a compromise I agreed to take a week out of training to give myself some extra time to re-coup.
If you follow me on twitter, or are unlucky to have me as a friend on Facebook, you know what happened to me on my first run after I resumed training. I was about 800meters from the office and I was doing a visualisation and mental exercises while running. I was so focussed that I didn’t see a pothole and I ran into it and twisted my ankle…. BAD! Where the ankle hurt for a few days, I was back at the gym lifting weights and on the bike 3 days after I hurt it. My thinking being, if I focus on exercises where there’s no risk of the ankle buckling or giving way, I’ll be OK.
The other issue I dealt with was the hip, which I mentioned at the start. As soon as the season had finished I entered into a rigorous physio therapy programme with Matthew Radcliffe, who is a the head physio for Southampton FC. Matt did a great job with me and seriously put me through the paces. I don’t think that I’ve ever worked so hard at physio, which I enjoyed as it was actually doing functional stuff that I knew would help and it kept me interested as I felt like I was actually having a workout.
The physio for the hip has worked as the times I’ve been on the ice, I’ve been skating pain free, which has shown me how much fun it can be. I was officially discharged from the hip physio and where I’m happy to know that I’ve been discharged and fit, I still have to do continuous exercises to ensure that the hip doesn’t flare up, that combined with a new pre-activation session.
Additionally, I’ve also been discharged from the ankle physio, which effectively brings to an end a regime of physio therapy that started in April. I think this summer I’ve been in physio for a longer period of time than ever before.
On the other hand though, my gym workouts have gone so well that I am actually feeling really good about the shape I am in and it is a definite step up compared to where I was starting from at the start of last season. Maybe more importantly the off season training has taught me more about mental toughness and discipline than anything else. I feel like the work I’ve put in, both in training and in physiotherapy has made me a stronger person and helped me to examine the game from a entirely new point of view. Despite the off ice training being hard and difficult at times, I have actually had fun doing it and I’m actually smiling at the gym, the same can be said of the times that I have been on the ice. Hockey is definitely fun again, which is something that I’ve missed among all the injuries I suffered with.
As for last season, well it is just that, it’s last season. I will take lessons from it, but for now my eyes are fixed on the 2011-2012 campaign. I think the most important lessons I have learnt this off season are those of patience, hard(er) work and trying out new things. I feel that I’m mentally stronger and I feel that I’ll be able to have fun instead of whitekncuckle the stick. There’s 6 days till we take to the ice as a team again, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing some of the guys I’ve not seen over the summer.
I can’t come up with a better ending to this than what a Finnish hockey journalist Jari Mesikammen (aka Karhuherra on twitter) said in his recent column: Forget about summer, drop the puck already!