The aging Sea King

 Source:  The National Post

Source: The National Post

Wow, the hockey season has flown by.

When I last checked in, winter hadn’t officially begun and the hockey season was relatively young. I had just proven that a middle-aged man can engage in outdoor, hockey-focused training even during harsh winter-like conditions. The table was set for a productive and transformational hockey season.

Suddenly, four months have flashed past. It’s spring, the season is in its last throes and I’ve learned a couple things.

The first thing I learned is that, even though it’s physically feasible to venture outside on cold winter nights to engage in sprinting and other forms of goal-oriented torture, it’s not something I want to do regularly. Looking back at my workout log, it appears that I managed to do some sort of exercise about once every seven to 10 days, really just a scattering of token exercise attempts. Clearly the vein of motivation I tapped during last fall’s initial rush of conditioning ran dry.

I also learned that working out the day before a game is a bad idea, as this forces my legs to engage in strenuous propulsion activities when they are still recovering from the violence of the workout. Not a happy mix.

Overall I learned that playing once a week effectively removes three potential workout days from my weekly schedule: the day before, the day of, and the day after a game (for recovery reasons). And any of the four remaining days can be easily derailed by any number of issues: it’s a Friday and I’m tired from a grueling week of editing newspapers, I’ve worked late that day and don’t have the time or energy to work out, the moon is in a phase that’s ill-suited for exercise, there’s something on TV, the dog’s water bowl is nearly empty ... the reasons are many and some of them are flimsy, but there you go.

The result of all of the above is that my conditioning has gradually backtracked as the season has wore on. I’ve noticed lately that my legs are a little less strong, a little more rubbery than they were earlier in the season. Executing quick turns and sudden accelerations have become laborious once again. During games I’ve caught myself sneaking peaks at the game clock, hoping for the ends of periods so I can get an extra breather. And by the end of games I feel a little worn out, almost as much as I used to before I started training.

I think my attempts to get into shape did make me more capable of playing at the level of the men’s league in which I play, which features fairly fast and skilled action. Without the base of conditioning that I hastily built at the beginning of the season, I would probably have been a very marginal player. As it was, I gauge that I was a notch or two above marginal, but I was definitely not a game breaker. I settled into my role as a stay-at-home defenceman, a player who could be counted on to be solid defensively (in theory, at least) and offer next to nothing in terms of offensive punch other than the willingness and ability to move the puck efficiently to the faster, more skilled players.

Aches and pains

Apart from the conditioning side of it, my season has been marked by physical discomfort.

The knee I injured last summer has flared up a few times, confirming my belief that there’s something structurally unsound in there. I’m getting it checked out.

And one of my hips, which has been a nagging source of ache on and off for a few years, has become stiff and sore on a semi-permanent basis, to the point that it’s starting to hamper my on-ice mobility. I’m having that checked out too.

Which brings me to my latest analogy: the Sea King. These are large military helicopters used by forces around the world, including the Canadian Forces. In service in Canada since 1963, these units have been earmarked for replacement since 1983 but the government hasn’t quite gotten around to that yet. One oft-publicized stat is that these aircraft require more than 30 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight.

I can relate. Sure, I can turn in a solid hour of hockey performance every week, but in order to do so, my body needs to spend the rest of the week propped up on jacks with various cowlings removed so a team of dedicated service personnel can overhaul my weary innards. Of course the infrastructure and financing just aren’t in place for such rigorous maintenance so I’m making do by following up each “flight” by lubricating my innards with generous dousings of Budweiser and dashes of hope that the problems will just go away.

This is, after all, beer-league hockey and that’s how we drop the puck, so to speak.