When it comes to writing and keeping up a blog, demands of life and business can make it challenging to find time to sit down and put some good thought into something you hope your readers will either find a degree of value or connection with in reading. Sometimes the best inspiration for writing comes through simple conversation. In this case, I was having a conversation with a parent that generated some thought that got me to thinking I should sit and put my thoughts down.
Knowing some of the physical ailments I deal with on a regular basis from sports, this particular parent of one of our athletes asked me, “Would you do it all again?”
Essentially their implied question being, “Was it worth it?”
Easy answer. I said, “Yes.”
The sports of ice hockey, powerlifting, and Strongman have provided me numerous friendships, lessons, memories, and helped shaped how I approach life. I would never change that.
Keep in mind, while some injuries I sustained playing hockey were severe, what I deal with to this day is relatively minor compared to other athletes.
In fact, while I did sustain injuries during sport participation, I received just as many injuries and set backs in the weight room or in training. This is what I would have changed the most. I would want to go back to change my training habits and attitude when I was in high school and college.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, I was fully invested in training for hockey and had minimal resources. The Internet did not provided the amount of information it has today. I was using magazines or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding to find guidance on what to do when it came to working out and lifting weights. There was truly a lack of training info out there. Similar to most kids my age, reading over the monthly Muscle and Fitness was the closest thing we had to authority on all things bigger and stronger.
There were no seminars. No YouTube tutorials. No blogs or online forums. No ebooks. These didn't exist as a reference to help young, aspiring athletes guide their understanding of training.
Books on training were just as hard to find. As a kid, I absolutely hated to read books. But I had one exception. I loved reading autobiographies on athletes I looked up to. Athletes like Jerry Rice, Herschel Walker, Jaromir Jagr, and Mario Lemieux.
At times, these athletes would discuss what types of workouts they did growing up or still performed in the offseason. I recall reading that Jerry Rice, as a kid, would run after horses to get faster. During his career as the greatest receiver in NFL history, Jerry Rice was well known for always coming into the season in phenomenal condition from brutal offseason workouts. Herschel Walker did 1,000 push-ups per day and was an absolute force on the football field. Jaromir Jagr did 1,000-2,000 bodyweight squats per day as a kid growing up in the Czech Republic and he attributed that to the speed and strength on the puck which made him the arguably the greatest European-born player in NHL history.
At 14, I remember being obsessed with what highly successful athletes did as young kids and I put it all down on paper, writing up my own workouts based on what they did. Lots of bodyweight squats, push-ups, running hills and biking for miles.
So I got to work. I biked 11 miles around my hometown on some days. Others I would run a hilly 3-mile course. And everyday I did bodyweight squats and push-ups, working up to eventually doing 2,000-2,500 squats and 400 push-ups within 75-90 minutes. Plus, my brothers and I would just go outside and play for hours. Didn’t matter what it was. We just played for fun.
I got my first weight set and bench around that same time and took on more of a bodybuilding focus thanks to Arnold and Muscle and Fitness.
The mentality was pushing yourself as hard as you can. More was better. Soreness meant you were doing something right. Complete exhaustion or puking meant you had a good conditioning workout. This was my mentality through high school and into college. I figured if it worked for some of the best athletes on the planet, it surely had to work for me.
The problem became I wasn't getting much bigger or much stronger. Sure there were initial benefits during the early years. See when you are young; if you show up, train hard and keep adding weight to the bar, it works! It works so well that it’s what I figured I could keep doing. But what no one ever told me was it only works for so long. You eventually reach a point of diminishing returns.
At a certain point, I had to seek out the help of a sports-trainer and that was hard to find back in 2000. My brother and I were heading into 12th grade and had a big showcase tournament coming up that summer. My dad was able to track down a guy for my brother and I to train with in preparation for that tournament. Under his guidance and direction, I was able to see improvements in size, strength, and speed that I was unable to achieve on my own.
What did he do for me that I couldn’t figure out on my own?
He knew that I needed to get more explosive, more dynamic, better conditioned for my sport. What I didn't understand is that sometimes success from things you have done in the past is the worst indicator of what should be done next.
Then I think back on my college hockey career and the years I have spent competing as a strength athlete in both powerlifting and Strongman. The muscle imbalances and movement restrictions that started to creep in because of poorly structured training programs. There were plenty more lessons I learned about intelligent training structure and program design from a number of various injuries and setbacks.
Hockey, Powerlifting, and Strongman have all influenced me somehow from a training perspective. I wouldn't change anything about participating in these sports; I would change my preparation for them.
I feel bad for kids these days. I feel they have it worse then my generation. They have been duped into thinking they will be better athletes from participating in one sport. They are being sold speed ladders, specialty camps, and mass marketing fitness trends. I grew up with out any experts, now kids today are growing up with “experts” everywhere. They are being robbed of the option of playing multiple sports by coaches who demand their involvement in one sport throughout the calendar year. They are forced into specialization too early. And when it finally is time to specialize, they have no base of athleticism or strength because those attributes have been ignored due to lack of free play. You can’t build upon a poorly established base and that is why youth sport injuries are continually on the rise. I share the opinion that this is why the fastest growing surgery is pediatric.
So to answer the question of a concerned parent, don't be concerned about the game or the sport or whatever your kid chooses. You should be concerned about the lack of free play, the lack of movement and variability, the lack of smart training. Take interest in that. I believe this to be the important part.