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May 17, 2016

Lies Your Off-Ice Trainer is Telling You

I have a Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology. I began training at a young age, believing it would help my hockey career. I also started coaching at a young age, believing I was helping.

I’m starting to think I was wrong. Very wrong.

The best player I ever played with (now in the NHL) was very lazy in the gym. So lazy, I think he skipped many workouts. I was not lazy. I trained religiously. I write blog articles. He scores goals in the NHL. So who should you imitate?

I hear parents tell their kids now that all the gains are made in the gym. That they need to be doing functional training in the gym at a young age to off-set their single-sport participation. I might have even told the parents this.

I don’t think that I agree with that. At least not anymore.

I think that success in hockey is set pretty early on. There are two factors that I believe contribute most to hockey success. I have no way of proving this, but nobody else has evidence to disprove me, or prove anything else. It’s very confusing, so I’m not even sure why I’m writing this. Mostly to think out loud.

The two factors are: 1) self-image 2) mindset

You might think these are the same things. They’re both “mental” “intangibles”.

Mindset can be measured. Dweck’s research is pretty clear on this. Players who have a mastery mindset, instead of a fixed mindset will be more resilient in the face of adversity and challenges. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should probably educate yourself on this.

Self-Image ties into Mindset. But it is different.

Self-image is how you view yourself as a player, and how you view your own ability to face challenges. Some players develop a fragile self-image. Others develop a robust one. Some players develop a self-image of a scorer early on. Others develop the self-image of a grinder early on. Coaches often influence it. Coaches often fuck it up and pigeon hole a player for their entire career. I think this is shitty and should not happen.

Once a player has settled on their self-image, it is a struggle to get them to adopt a new one. The setting of the self-image often happens early. If their self-image happens to contain a fixed mindset, the player is likely to be screwed when adversity inevitably hits.

There are many benefits to strength and conditioning. A properly run program will safeguard against injuries. A properly run program may prevent imbalances and postural issues from developing. A properly run program may even improve performance on the ice. In my experience, only the top 1-2% of strength and conditioning coaches are actually capable of creating a “properly run program”. In my experience, most players can’t afford to train with the top 1-2% of coaches. Or, the top 1-2% of trainers are naturally only available to the top 1-2% of players. Maybe the top 4-5%. But who knows for sure.

Most players would benefit more by taking a gymnastics class, or reducing their time using technology. I spend about 85% of my time as a strength and conditioning coach correcting imbalances that occur because athletes are no longer well rounded. They don’t have the ability to quickly learn new physical skills anymore. They often have screwed up posture. When we get the odd athlete with good posture, who can learn skills quickly, we praise them for being a super athlete, these days. They’re the exception to the rule. Not long ago, the sucky athletes were the exception to the rule. It’s all backward these days.

Maybe strength and conditioning is a necessity for todays athlete. My business model depends on that assumption. But top performers are not made in the gym. Not in hockey. At best, they are maintained in the gym. At best, they’re prevented from falling apart in the gym.

I can make you faster. Way faster. I can make you stronger in the gym. Way stronger. I may be able to affect your mindset a bit.

But I can’t make you think the game. I can’t do much to change your self-image. You and your coach have more control over that than me, as your S&C coach.

This summer, we changed everything. Well not everything, but a lot.

We shifted our focus to teamwork, accountability, and mindset. We are playing more soccer. We derive lessons for hockey from soccer. We are playing more tennis. We derive lessons for hockey from that too. We have more group competitions. We emphasize consistency. It’s pretty different.

We still lift. We still train. We still pay attention to the details of that program. Ask our players, and they’ll tell you how hard they work, and the attention to detail placed on everything we do. But I think that that portion of the summer (training & lifting) has been relegated in importance to a more appropriate priority level. We focus more on other stuff. Stuff that makes a bigger difference. It’s more fun that way.

-Jason

P.S. If you liked this article because it was different than most Drone Coach advice, and you’d like to get to work on becoming a Hockey Wizard, then click here to check out the benefits of becoming a Train 2.0 Member.

April 19, 2016

The Weirdest Perspective On Hockey You’ve Come Across

Not long ago, I talked about treating your players like dogs. There was a funny part and an interesting part to this little piece. The funny part is that treating your players like dogs (properly) works. The interesting part, is that not many people understood it.
One reason that few understood this article is because most people don’t understand the Moist Robot Hypothesis.
Scott Adams thinks that humans are like Moist Robots. The Moist Robot has a set of instructions (a program), and it responds to commands based on their programming.
Now, Scott Adams is a “trained hypnotist” and a cartoonist. He often suggests that his readers should “not take advice from a cartoonist”. He might be right. But we might be able to take advice from a Ph.D in psychology: Robert Cialdini. Cialdini suggests that there is a “click, whirr” response in the brain. Where a request framed in a certain way leads to a pre-programmed response. He found that persuasion professionals (salespeople, dealmakers) are adept at invoking this “click, whirr” response to get more “yeses”. Cialdini’s work shows that we might have less free will than we think. From the flower-giving Hare Krishna devotees, to establishing rapport, we can influence behaviour of another, without them knowing, based on what actions we take.
On top of this, in “The Power of Habit”, Charless Duhigg suggests over 40% of our actions are habits – automatic reactions to external events (cues).
Work by Kahneman and Tversky also shows that humans are known as “cognitive misers”. This means that we don’t engage in effortful thinking all the time. In fact, our brains prefer the simple shortcut/approximation most of the time. Effortful thinking has a huge energy cost. So our brain systematically takes mental shortcuts to save energy and processing power. As a result, humans often have predictable (programmed) reactions to certain problems. These mental shortcuts/programs lead to faster processing, but can also sometimes lead to systematic errors in judgment. We call these programmed reactions biases.
You might be getting a little freaked out now that the data seems to confirm this Moist Robot Hypothesis. And that might be helpful.
You see, when you accept that we are indeed Moist Robots, you start looking at your learning and development in a different way.
I used to think that if I “worked harder” I would automatically get better. But then I realized two things: 1) My environment matters a lot 2) How I’m programmed to react to my environment matters even more.
Here’s an example:
As a young player, I was extremely determined to succeed. I would listen to any advice that coaches offered me. I remember that one time, a well meaning coach told me I should take a slapshot with a straight left arm (I’m right handed). While it’s generally true that you make contact with the puck with a straight arm, your wind up should usually be with a bent arm. But I didn’t know this. Neither did this well meaning coach. But since I was so determined to get a harder shot, I practiced this (faulty) technique again and again and again and again.
Eventually, I figured it out and stopped taking slapshots like that. But the amount of years where I had a crappy shot was…a lot. My shot is still the weakest part of my game.
Why did this happen?
1) The advice the coach gave me was shitty. Environment.
2) I was programmed to be coachable rather than trust my instincts.
Fixing the first part is easy. Well maybe not that easy for some coaches. But it should be the easier part: get better information.
The second part is challenge. How do you hack into a player’s program and figure out how they respond to certain inputs?
Remember that in my example, I wanted to listen to a volunteer minor hockey coach more than I trusted my own body feel. Most people do. For me, I derived more pleasure from being coachable than from trusting myself while ignoring a coach. Ignoring a coach was painful to me. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this setup so long as your coach gives you better information than your body does. In my case, I was unlucky and my coach didn’t.
One way to adjust the programming in a player’s mind is to show them what to pay attention to. Particularly, what things they should associate pleasure to and what things they should associate pain with.
Even famed life coach Tony Robbins jumps in on the Moist Robot hypothesis. He says that everything we do comes down to the pleasure-pain principle. You do something to get more pleasure or to avoid pain. Often, problems occur in our lives are when we misacossiate pleasure and pain to the wrong things. For example, someone who is overweight associates more pleasure to food than to being skinny. Or the pain of eating healthy is larger than the pain of being skinny. Either way, their pain-pleasure principle is all out of whack. They need to mentally associate pain and pleasure to the right things in the right way in to get what they actually want. He calls this alignment of the pain-pleasure principle with your goals Neuro Associative Conditioning.
The other day, a mom told me that her son’s coach recommended boxing lessons. The coach felt the player wasn’t aggressive enough on the ice and that boxing would solve this. While this seems to make sense, it often doesn’t work that well. By the same logic, I should tell my athletes to play poker to learn to be more deceptive on the ice. I’ve seen the boxing thing happen, and it rarely works for players that don’t have the correct programming for aggression.
The problem is not that the player doesn’t know how to hit a punching back or throw a left hook. The problem is that the player does not recognize the cues for initiating aggression. It might also be true that the player is scared. This means that he associates more pain to initiating aggression than to not initiating aggression. Think about this for a second.
To train someone to be aggressive you cannot teach someone boxing and expect them to become aggressive on the ice. I believe that they need to be taught the cues to demonstrating aggression, and then associate more pleasure to initiating it. Then they need to be rewarded for this. This isn’t a simple or quick process, but it can be done.
So how do you go through this process?
Another Moist Robot supporter, Karen Pryor, wrote an entire book on this type of thing….for animals.
Pryor notes that it is often easier and more obvious to correct (negatively reinforce) bad behaviour than to creatively reinforce a positive behaviour. However, she also notes that positive reinforcement leads to faster adoption of behaviours. Positive reinforcement is different than a reward. Positive reinforcement is INSTANTANEOUS and leads to a neural connection between behaviour and reward. In other words – pleasure. You might see how this ties into the Pain-Pleasure principle. A reward comes later. There is a time gap between behaviour and reward. As a result, there is no neural connection. That is one reason why money (year end bonuses) is not as motivating as people think.
Putting all of this together, can you figure out how you might shape aggressive behaviour in a hockey player? How about other behaviour? (I keep intermixing behaviour and skill. They are the same thing).
Next article we discuss this question a bit more.
-Jason
If you’re finding this topic bizarre, you may enjoy the rest of the series.

P.S. If you liked this article because it was different than most Drone Coach advice, and you’d like to get to work on becoming a Hockey Wizard, then click here to check out the benefits of becoming a Train 2.0 Member.
November 19, 2015

You are training too hard and why you won’t stop – Conditioning for Hockey

Woah, woah, woah. You’re telling me that I’m training harder than I need to? Who is this guy? Everyone is telling me to train more…

I’ve already told you that you should sell yourself to get ahead in hockey career, not bend your knees as much, swing your arms side to side, and use psychological tricks to get your coach to invest in you. I think I’ve firmly established that I’m not afraid to offer an unconventional perspective. I don’t aim to be different just to be different – as Tim Ferriss says, just because wearing underpants on top of your jeans is unconventional, doesn’t mean it is useful. The different perspectives I offer may just give you an advantage over the other players who are competing against you for your spot.

First, let’s discuss why you are NOT likely to start working LESS HARD.

Even if I provide examples of results, research, logic, anecdotes, and persuasive arguments, most players are still likely to keep training harder and harder. Even though it is disappointing to me that players are consistently leaving results on the table, it is exciting for players who are willing to try something different. Imagine how freeing it is to know that you don’t have to “out work” those competing for your spot! Imagine if you could simply work AS hard and do something different to get better results than them.

But again, most players won’t do something different. Here’s why:

1) Everyone else is doing it. 9/10 trainers, 9/10 players, 9/10 teams are doing things “the way it has always been done”. So not matter who you are, you’re likely to get caught up in what everyone else is doing at some point. It is difficult as a single player to overcome this inertia of bag skates, exhaustive circuits, and regular puke worthy intervals.
2) Complexity. Even though there is tons of information out there to guide you…it is difficult to sort through. It is even harder to implement because very few people are telling you an exact step by step plan, WITHOUT being overly restrictive.

My goal is to give you such simple and clear information that you can’t help but implement it. I want to give you tiny habits you can start implementing without much effort or without the risk of being socially ridiculed. I also want to make the guidelines as practical as possible for the busy athlete who has lot’s on his or her plate.

So here are two things you can to get in Better Condition while working just as hard – but by being smarter. They are based on scientific principles which explain exactly how your body responds to exercise and makes changes to improve your “conditioning”. But they are principles that most trainers seem to ignore. And it could be costing you.

Let’s talk about those reasons.

Your body has these little energy power houses called “mitochondria” that convert carbohydrates and fats into fuel when combined with oxygen. When you have more mitochondria, you can convert more fuel into energy for your muscles “aerobically” (meaning with oxygen). The more energy you can create aerobically, the less you need to create anaerobically (without oxygen). Sort of like if you have a choice between regular gas and nitrous in your car. It is more efficient if you can run your regular gas and require turning on your nitrous boosters less. How this is similar to the body is that the less anaerobic energy you need to create, the less acidity (commonly referred to as lactic acid) you will create. So the more mitochondria you have, the less acidity you create when you exercise. Said another way, the more you have mitochondria, the more you can use regular gas instead of your nitrous (anaerobic) boosters.

One common issue that athletes encounter is coaches then think that working the athlete as hard as they can will get them in better condition. The problem with this assertion is that acidity (from anaerobic/nitrous boosters) kills off mitochondria! Uh oh…

So if you work too hard, too often, you offset the supposed benefits you are supposed to be reaping – building mitochondria to improve your conditioning. “Feeling the burn” is not as beneficial as people think it is.

There is a better way to improve your conditioning without so much fatigue. And because of the above principle, it works even better!

Here it is: Full intensity sprints for 10-20s, with long, long, long rest intervals.

You see, the signal for your body to grow mitochondria comes from hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen in your system. When you send your body a sharp signal of lack of oxygen, it responds by creating more mitochondria. When you do a fresh, full intensity sprint, you send your body into hypoxia…sharply. When you do intervals or work to the point of your muscles burning, you are limited in your ability to do intense exercise, and therefore get your body hypoxic! So the key to intervals is to do them at such a high intensity that it sends a big signal to your mitochondria to multiply – by getting hypoxic.

To make a meaningful adjustment in your training, try this:

1) Do a warm up.
2) Then choose a work interval between 10s and 20s.
3) Then you will do a work interval for your chosen time
4) Then rest for at least 2 minutes. AT LEAST! You may rest longer if you wish.
5) Do another work interval.
6) Repeat until you don’t feel like “fresh” anymore.

Add this workout to your week only 1 time. Is this the perfect program? No. Is this a complete program? No. Could you do more? Yes. Is this the time intervals optimal? Probably, but I’m not sure.

 

Why am I giving you these ambiguous answers?

I promise it isn’t because I’m trying to be difficult. It is because I want you to actually make a change. It is easier for you to make one simple and small adjustment than to drastically change your workout. And I promise that by adding this to your training week just once, it will make a difference in your conditioning.

Here’s another way to improve your conditioning effortlessly: Improve your breathing technique.

Karatekas, shaolin monks, Yogis, Pavel Tsatsouline, Brian MacKenzie, Wim Hof, and Jill Miller are all crazy people. They are crazy, and geniuses in their own way. And they all preach the power of the breath.

Oh blah blah Jason. Breathing = boring!

I know that’s what you’re thinking.

But what if improving your breathing could:

  1. Improve your conditioning without training
  2. Improve your mental focus
  3. Improve your recovery

And what if by starting something so small and simple, like purposefully focusing on your breathing, could get you all these improvements.

If you’re sitting or lying down, try something right now. Put one hand on your chest, and another on your belly. Then breath so that your top hand moves. This is called a chest breath. Then breath so that your bottom hand moves. This is called a belly breath.

Belly breathing involves your diaphragm. And your diaphragm is a special muscle. When you breathe with your diaphragm, you use about 31% more lung volume. So with each breath, you can get in more oxygen – for your mitochondria to use! Mitochondria get more oxygen, you can use your regular gas instead of your anaerobic (nitrous boosters)…thus enhancing your conditioning. Second, and this is a big one, when you don’t breathe through your diaphragm, all the blood in your body gets sent from your limbs to your core. When you do breathe through your diaphragm, blood gets send back into your working muscles in your limbs. So where do you want your blood flow going? Into your core? Or into the muscles where you need it to do your work?

So if you habitually breathe through your chest, you are cutting off a portion of your lung volume and sending blood away from your limbs and into your core. (This is the exact opposite of what you want) By simply changing your breathing habits you can increase your lung volume and make blood flow more efficient during training.

Here is one thing you can do today to make a small change: in between your shifts, drills, sets, or intervals…put your hand on your belly and focus on breathing into it.

Again, I could give you drill, upon drill, upon drill, for breathing… but I’m not going to. We know that you are more likely to make a change when it is so simple and small there is no way you can’t adopt the habit. So rather than bog you down with 12 things to do, I’m going to give you 1 single, simple thing to try.

Bottom Line

I don’t want you to give up working hard. But I want to offer you the opportunity to try something new out that will work better. Here are two habits, that are so simple, there’s no way you can’t do them. I want you to start implementing these tiny habits that will drastically improve the efficiency of your conditioning regime. I also want you start small, so you can circumvent the inertia of the mainstream. Finally, if you start small and adopt these tiny habits, there’s a good chance that you will start making bigger and bigger changes that will make a drastic difference.

Until then,

-Jason

P.S. If you liked this article because it was different than most Drone Coach advice, and you’d like to get to work on becoming a Hockey Wizard, then click here to check out the benefits of becoming a Train 2.0 Member.

 

July 7, 2015

Get a Faster First Step, Faster

Would a faster first step, acceleration and top speed help your game? Of course it will! How are you going to do that? Train more? Lift more? Sprint more?
More is more? No. Not always.
I’ve written time and time again that the thesis of “working harder” and “doing more” is an old and obsolete one. To improve in the old days, since no one trained using weights, if you simply trained using weights, you’d probably get ahead. Nowadays, everyone is lifting weights, running, doing WODs and snorting pre-workout to get ahead. As a trainer, if I’m not finding, distilling and instructing my athletes with the most carefully curated information, I’m wasting your money and worst of all, your time.
jasonice
When it comes to improving skating speed, it’s wildly tempting to try the following things:
  • Sprint
  • Hill sprints
  • Plyometrics
  • Lifting Weights
  • Olympic Lifting
  • Powerlifting
  • AMRAP Powercleans (or equally ridiculous physical challenge)
  • Agility Ladders

But if we’re serious about getting you a faster step, faster, then we need to RESPECT THE PROGRESSIONS FOR SKATING SPEED DEVELOPMENT. Respecting the progressions will speed your development more than going for “quick wins”, “doing more”, and “doing what everyone else is doing”.

October 8, 2014

Superfood Taco Salad – Ready in 20 minutes or less

Yesterday, I have no clue why, but I just went wild in the kitchen. At lunch time, I got really creative with a salad dressing, and then at dinner, I got creative again. Result: The Superfood Taco Salad. I had enough for dinner, and seconds at lunch the next day. So you could say it feeds two hockey players, or about 3-4 normal people…all in 20 minutes. Here’s what you need:

IMG_6969

All you need is one of these and…

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August 21, 2014

Hacking Tryouts – Experimenting with advanced statistics

Tryout camps are a time of tumultuous emotion, upset parents, scorned players, stressed out coaches, and political agendas. When I took part in the minor hockey and junior tryout camps, I was sort of blind to all the calamity around me. When I began attending tryout camps from the perspective of strength and conditioning/skills coach, I took on a whole new perspective. I sort of took on the perspective of the anxious parent who wants his kid (in my case, athletes I train), to do well. I also took the perspective of the coach trying to sort out who was deserving of a spot and who wasn’t. This journey was further animated by the (wide) range of perspectives of every different parent.

Most parents of players who were cut, thought that their kid was not given a fair shake. I sometimes agreed, and other times disagreed. Since parents were so biased in watching their kids play, I wondered, though, exactly how much of my bias was distorting my perception of players’ performance. The next logical question was: how much of the coach’s bias distorted his views? In order to answer this, I wanted to evaluate some sort of objective data that might track a player’s performance in the tryout camp and possibly predict their future performance on the team. So that’s what I did…

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August 16, 2014

Get Sport IQ – Excellent Blog

Finally! A blog where the articles are written by informed authors, where the same old gibberish isn’t recycled. There are some excellent articles on this blog by some top notch authors. If you like reading some of my articles, you’ll definitely like this.

Get Sport IQ:

http://www.getsportiq.com

Cheers!

Jason

May 12, 2014

Updated May 2014: Why the term fast feet should never apply to hockey

Updated to reflect some new knowledge and perspectives that I’ve come across regarding the term “fast feet” or “quick feet”.

  • Updated to make things simpler to understand
  • Clarify the difference between what we see on the ice and how we train to make that happen.
  • Better understand why blade contact time is important.

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April 10, 2014

Joe DeFranco’s Limber 11

Here’s a great idea from a well known trainer in New Jersey: The Limber 11. (Tim Ferris calls him the trainer of NFL Monsters)

I like a lot of these mobility and release exercises and definitely recommend them to hockey players. In the next few weeks, I think I’ll do my own version specifically for hockey players. In the meantime try these out to keep yourself nice and limber.

http://www.defrancostraining.com/ask-joe/44-flexibilitymobility/302-joe-ds-qlimber-11q-flexibility-routine.html

April 4, 2014

Plan before you go! Advice on starting your off-season training program

I’m simultaneously planning several things in my life right now:

  • My summer training
  • My final studying plan
  • My business plan

I was about to embark on studying something that I thought I needed to study for my final…but then I checked the exam guide and found an already formulated study guide that saved me about 40minutes of work. This led me to think of a couple of meaningful quotes to me…

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