12 September 2011

Kicking My Own Butt Off the Couch

Despite walking 3 miles to work most mornings and not gaining any weight by the scale's measure, I know I'm not in peak physical condition. The morning walks are more meditative than fitness-oriented, and I can assume based on how my clothes fit that the muscle I'd built up last hockey season has turned to an equivalent poundage of fat.

For the past couple weeks I've been looking forward to the Freeze hockey season not just because, well, hockeyhockeyhockeyhockey!!!, but as a means of kickstarting a return to fitness. Tonight's first practice gave me exactly what I was looking for.

The rink was warm enough that the ice never really froze properly after it was cut, which made skating both hotter and harder. By about 2/3 of the way through practice, my legs were vibrating with little muscle spasms from my butt all the way down to my toes (yes, my feet were cramping, too). We did lots of skating in loops with sprints between the blue lines to start, then two-man passing drills, transition circles, bank-or-headman passing drills, skating and shooting from both forehand and backhand, three-man weaves, and the 1-2-3. Most of the drills were designed to assess the skills of the new players, though I imagine the rest of us were being re-assessed as well.

Last year I think I felt much more pressure during the first few "assessment" practices and worried that I wouldn't even make my existing team (UWHL White/C-level). For some reason—maybe it was the fitness goal?—I didn't this year. I don't really think I'll be dropped a level in any case, but certainly not based on my performance tonight. Yes, I made a few stupid moves ("weaksauce," Jason called my rather lackadaisical—and blind to boot—pass to the net on one of the drills, and I completely agreed with him), but they were relaxed stupid moves, not pressure-induced screwups. Aside from the rubber legs and sore back, I felt really comfortable out there. I feel like my skills are decent, C-level skills, and that I'm primed to learn and grow more this season.

I'm also excited to try to gain back some of the muscle I lost over the past couple months off, and am trying to figure out how to fit some more strenuous training into my already-busy schedule. I want to continue my morning meditation walks, though I'm considering running or biking some days. And there are always the stairs at work: When I'm in the stairwell alone, I'll climb the stairs in a crouch, with my back as straight as possible, to [a] get used to getting low when I skate, and [b] strengthen my hamstrings, quads, and glutes, which helps with [a].

I may also try to work in some 20-minute floor Pilates workouts to strengthen my core and protect my back (another thing that getting low will help with; I'm bending over too much now). All of this should help with hockey, as well as improve my overall fitness. So far I haven't found that getting older has flattened my learning curve—only playing with men on the east coast did, briefly—but I have noticed that I'm now losing muscle more quickly. I'll have to work harder as I age if I want to keep playing and improving.

Posted by Lori at 11:41 PM | TrackBack | Link to This Entry

06 November 2011

Running on Empty

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I felt my age on the ice today. Well, maybe not my age, but definitely exhausted... and worrying that I wasn't in as good shape as I'd thought. I mean, ten years ago I skated in games where we only had 6 players total, not the 5 forwards and 3 D we had today. Am I losing it?

Al reminded me that ten years ago, I skated a lot slower than I do now, which is true. And it's also true that I pretty much have only two speeds: all out, and looking to get off. When we do circles at practice, I can't "slow down and focus on my technique"; I just go, and go at the only speed I have (one that leaves me panting after each 5-circle run). It's a mark of how far I've come—and how far I've yet to go—that I now skate hard enough to soak all my gear in sweat, but that I can't adjust my speed and level of effort based on the situation.

In any case, in this game we all had to take extra-long/double shifts owing to the shortage of players, and by the end of the second period, I wasn't having fun anymore. My whole body was shaking, I was half-sobbing (mostly from exhaustion, but also from frustration at being able to make the first move—to get to the puck first, to catch the pass, or to take the puck away from an opponent—and then not have the energy to make the next one), and I'd yelled at Billy for not being supportive after he'd expressed dismay that I didn't make the perfect play when I'd given everything I'd had to make any play at all.

I managed to get it together enough to get back on the ice for the third period, but then Karen got called for hooking (she and Nielle had just lifted an opponent's stick, and apparently that opponent had using her stick for balance, because she tipped over) and was sent to the box. Karen didn't realize the penalty was on her at first and asked what the call was; Billy had the same question, and told the ref so. There was then an exchange where Karen told Billy that she'd only lifted the other girl's stick... which the ref overheard and apparently thought was addressed to him. "That's it!" he yelled, "BENCH MINOR! One of youse get off the ice."

Shelly had realized that I wasn't doing well physically or emotionally, so she shouted, "Lori! Why don't you serve it?" I agreed and joined Karen in the box. And I want to tell you, that penalty was the best thing that could have happened to me, and possibly to the team. For one thing, we got to rest 4 forwards all at once; for another, I got two minutes of actual recovery time not long after we'd just had a one-minute break between periods. And in the shift where Karen and I jumped back on to make it 5-on-5, I scored a goal to tie the game.

I honestly don't remember much about what happened during the rest of that shift, but the scoring play I remember quite clearly. I'd been down low in front of the net looking to tip a shot in, but not much was getting through. The puck almost cleared the zone, but Nielle kept it in and sent it around, where Jo kept it in despite being charged by two opponents. I stayed in front of the net because [a] I always do, figuring that I can get back pretty quickly if the puck crosses the blue line, and I want to be in scoring position in case we keep it in, and [b] because staying in front of the net required less skating.

Anyway, Jo managed to poke the puck forward as the other players descended on her, and because both of those players went to her, Shelly was open on the boards. I saw Shelly grab the puck and thought (or maybe said out loud?), "shoot it over here!" She did, and I saw the puck come toward me hard, in the air and rolling end over end. I one-timed it backhanded, made solid contact, and shot it over the goalie's head, just as she was stepping out to block the shot. It actually hit her helmet and dropped behind her into the net.

I finished out the third period still shaky and exhausted, but no longer teary. (I actually didn't stop shaking until mid-way through dinner after the game.) Unfortunately we ended up losing, partly because I tried to block a wicked shot from the point and ended up tipping it with my stick. Grace never saw it as it went over her shoulder into the net. Thinking about it now, though, I'm not sure I would have done anything differently; maybe just let Grace see the shot, and not try to block it at all? I didn't have the legs to get fully in front of the shot, and I'd blocked a few other shots in the game with my stick, so it seemed a logical (if perhaps wrong) thing to do to try to poke the puck away with my stick.

I'm fairly certain we would have beaten this team if we'd had a full bench—or even two full lines of forwards—and I think we're all looking forward to playing them again to prove it. In the meantime, I think I may need to work harder to prepare for future games where we might be as short as we were today. I can (and do) walk for miles and miles, and I could easily play a second game after playing one in which we had three lines, which says something about my stamina under a moderate level of effort. But if I want to be ready to sustain a higher level of effort for a longer period of time, I'm going to need to introduce that kind of effort into my routine.

Posted by Lori at 10:19 PM | TrackBack | Link to This Entry

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