Oh the joys of fitness testing! I’m not the sugar-coating kind, and you keep asking me what it’s like, so this is your backstage pass to the most dreaded few days of our team’s year. Most days I love being a hockey player, but there are three days, three times a year that I honestly envy the wonderful people who serve me my Tim Hortons in the morning.
Twice in the Spring and once near the end of Summer, National Team players gather for the dreaded fitness testing. Just to give you an idea of how intense this is, the NHLPA rules go something like ‘NHL players can only fitness-test for three hours’, while we are put through the paces for three DAYS of events. It’s by far the most comprehensive and intense testing and no matter how many times you do it, it sucks. I know it’s going to hurt and it never really gets easier, even if you’re at peak performance, because it just means they push you further. Before we even get started, there’s another lovely little chore: Fat testing. Yep callipers test 30 sites on all your wobbly bits, while you hang out in your bra and underwear feeling awfully exposed. Now there is no right score on this, as it’s the fat to muscle ratio, not just fat percentage, that’s important, but most elite female hockey players will test somewhere between 12% and 18%. A lot of it comes down to how well you carry your weight and acts mostly a baseline measure.
Day 1 consists of major strength testing, beginning with pushing out your maximum chin-ups, bench press, and vertical and horizontal jumps. Next, we undergo the RHIET test, which stands for Rapid High Intensity Endurance Test. We hate this. All of us. You run 40 meters down and 40 meters back 6 times for a total of no more than 30 second per repetition. The crucial measure is the drop off between the first interval and the last interval; it should be less than 1.5 seconds for elite athletes. The RHIET might not sound so tough but I have borderline passed out, athletes often cough up a lung, and sometimes I’ve even gone blind for a few seconds after lol, because you are pushing yourself and tolerating a lot of lactic acid doing this.
If you don’t cool down properly after Day 1 and take good care of your body by getting sleep and eating right, you will hurt on Day 2. I stay away from anything that will go through me quickly. Things high in fibre or coffee don't often fare to well in the body, as training camp is nerve-racking and the exercise combined with angst can be a recipe for disaster if you eat or drink the wrong things!!
Next up on Day 2 is the Beep Test. This is used to measure your aerobic endurance and you basically run to a cadenced beep as it increases in speed until you drop out. Elite female hockey players run anywhere from 11 – 14, 13-14 being in the 60's for vo2 max and a very good score. To put that into perspective, the average person might have a tough time making it to 6 or 7. Some believe it to be the most important test, although I think it only gives part of your fitness profile, not the entire picture.
Enter the bike tests, which I consider the best of the worst, because I love bike pain and am fairly strong on the bike. There are several tests in this category, such as the Incremental Lactate Test, where they prick your finger every few minutes as you peddle for upwards of 30-40 minutes, while the trainer increases the watts so you have to work harder. The purpose is to work you until you ‘bonk’ to see what your lactate tolerance is at certain wattages. From this, they are able to determine HR training zones and its good to know those for off ice training. After figuring out your anaerobic/aerobic fitness rates, they give you a couple hours to recover. So nice of them, don’t you think?! I usually regroup by drinking some Ultima Replenishers, flush out the lactate by drinking water with baking soda, and maybe scarf down a half avocado and a bar. I usually stick to vegetables and complex carbs during training as I eat a lot leading up to store enough glycogen, and I don’t enjoy feeling full or heavy during testing.
Then they bring on the Wingate Test where trainers load your bike with weights while you cycle for 15 seconds as hard as you can possibly go, then after a short break they load you again for another 30 seconds of hard pushing. This is short but brutal. The fitter and heavier you are, the more weight you push. The more watts per kg you can push, the more power you have. This is a good test for hockey players.
But alas, they leave the worst for last: the CP 2.5 Test. From our previous results, physiologists predict what we can push on the bike for 2.5 minutes. This is about both power and speed endurance, and I consider this the most important marker for hockey players. Elite hockey players both female and malewill push anywhere from 350-600 watts on this test. To give you an example, Ryder Hesjedal, who recently won the Giro D' Italia, can push about 5oo watts for an hour!! That is sick! In saying that hockey and cycling are two different beasts and the physiology is entirely different, as is the makeup of the athlete.
I actually came away from this last camp, feeling as if I am in the best physical shape of my life which leads me to believe I am training smarter. I PB’ed quite a few tests actually, which is great for confidence. Its surprising to be achieving personal bests in May, usually that happens in September after a full season of training.
After a grueling few days, the team celebrated by taking in a Blue Jay’s game in the President’s Suite and indulging in some beer, pizza and other high-fat meals that are restricted from our diets most of the year. But it was back on the healthy eating wagon the next day as the final fitness testing of 2012 is just a little over 3 months away. This is the ultimate test of what you did over the summer, as there is no way to hide it from your trainers, teammates or yourself about how hard you worked in the off-season. Which brings me to our next LIVE WEB CHAT (coming soon), when I will be connecting with members of Club Wick to answer questions about ‘Staying Hockey-Fit All Summer Long’. Hope to see you inside Club Wick!
Phewf! So that about sums up your backstage pass to the world of fitness testing… if you’ve been through something similar, I salute you…. If you haven’t, just be grateful for that 12-minute run they make you do in PhysEd?!