An ice pack becomes my bosom buddy for the next couple of days. I clutch it to the back of my leg at every opportunity: in the car, at my desk at work, at the kitchen table, on the couch.
The first day after the injury I’m very sore and limpy so I take a break from all forms of training. On the second day the leg feels well enough for some footwork drills but is too sore for any sprinting.
The third night is a game night. My leg doesn’t hamper my performance but I feel a bit like my old self: sluggish and slow. Oh well, it’s only beer league.
The next day my leg still feels fine so, come evening, I’m ready to try an all-out sprint session. After my warmup, I let ‘er rip and my leg holds up fine. I complete a full complement of sprint intervals and all my limbs remain intact. Yes! I declare the injury overcome. This brings great relief as I’d initially worried that the injury was much more serious.
I then repair to the garage for some squat exercises with a barbell across my shoulders. I do 10 reps with 110 pounds on the bar then venture up to 120 pounds for four more reps.
These squat exercises I view as my main tool for addressing one of my greatest conditioning shortcomings: poor leg strength, which translates to poor speed on the ice.
A couple days after declaring my injury cured I try squatting 140 pounds, which is just 10 pounds shy of my body weight. This is heavy work for me but I handle four reps without incident. Based on previous conversations with hockey conditioning experts, my plan with these squats is to focus on big weight and few reps, probably every second day or so, to allow the muscles to rebuild in between. This is what sprinters do and I’m essentially a sprinter in training, given that a hockey shift is basically a series of quick, powerful, explosive movements.
As I progress in my development of a sprinter’s body, I’ve noticed that I’m also starting to develop a sprinter’s attitude. During the rest periods between wind sprints I’m starting to chuff and strut like a high-strung stallion, my rump stuck out haughtily to the rear and my chest puffed out to the front. As I move, my arms and legs bow out wide, away from my body, as if to accommodate some massive bulk. The natural progression of this machismo-laden peacockery is that my great chest gets repeatedly thumped and my arms find reason to repeatedly point this way and that, as if I’m hailing supporters in the crowd.
This is all imagined, of course. My blown-up bravado is visible only to shadowy thickets of trees. But that doesn’t matter. When you’re a strutting stallion, it’s not about the crowd, it’s about the proud.