The Boy was recently offered an opportunity to try some cool hockey-related technology. Technology has invaded hockey like any other sport or walk of life. Tools have been designed to make you skate faster, shoot harder and supposedly perform at a higher level. The Boy, admittedly at dad’s urging, thought it would be cool to give this latest one a try.
A local sports/hockey shop has recently installed skating treadmill, which he’s signed on to try with a buddy and former teammate. The kids in the YouTube video clip we watched looked to be having fun, while presumably improving their skating stride. The were skating, smiling with relative ease. Marketing can be so deceiving sometimes.
The 8×8 treadmill requires participants to be harnessed/tethered from above to keep them from being flung off the end at high speed. It can be set at an incline upwards of a 20 degrees and is, by all accounts, one hard-ass workout. There’s no gliding with this skating unlike its on-ice equivalent. The ultimate purpose of the treadmill is to work specifically on developing a cleaner, more powerful stride. A trainer guides each athlete through a series of endurance, power and explosive acceleration drills.
The first challenge the Boy encountered was simply getting used to the feel and speed of the unit. Like I said, there’s no gliding — you must keep your feet moving or the treadmill will move you – hence the harness. Day one on the new contraption and the Boy along with his mates could be seen scrambling and eventually swinging through the air like an astronaut on a gravity-free spacewalk.
The second challenge for the Boy grew out of the fact that he hadn’t been on the ice for a few weeks. Even 16 year old boys lose something when they shut down for an extended period of time. In this boy’s case, shutdown translates into spending time in his beanbag chair playing Call of Duty on XBox. Now suddenly, he was being tasked with performing high-impact skating sprints for 20-30 second intervals — uphill. An onlooker asked my favourite question upon witnessing the obvious strain on the Boy’s face, “What ya been doing that past few weeks? Eating samwiches?” During this first session there was a pretty good chance we were going to see exactly what type of samwiches the Boy may have eaten earlier that day. Story simple – the treadmill kicked his ass. In fairness, it should be pointed out that his training companions found themselves in similar straits. All were quiet, sullen and gasping for air that was apparently not in abundance from their perspective.
A week later (last night) all three skaters looked like they’d gained some comfort and confidence with the machine from their experience the week before. They approached their new-found nemesis with a greater awareness of what they were up against. The roar of the motor was less intimidating. The streaking surface below was an easier measure. But the work was no less difficult. One by one they took their turn at the direction of the trainer. Slow to start…a little more speed and incline with each rotation. The expressions of each lad declared their level of effort. The instructor sensed the physical toll the machine was taking; slowing the pace every so slightly. Yet a participant was lost a little past the 1/2 way point in the scheduled hour-long session. Shortly thereafter a second brave soldier fell by the wayside. The Boy, to his credit, somehow worked through the obvious stress of the situation. He told me at once, “Dad, I think I’m gonna puke.” Then a sip of water sated his thirst and seemingly buoyed his spirits for the last couple of rounds. He was about to quit when the trainer asked if he had enough left in the tank for a quick cool-down. He was pleased to learn he had made it to the end; whereas his comrades were not as fortunate.
The true test of the value of this experiment will be realized tomorrow night when the Boy and one of his partners take to a standard sheet of ice for hockey practice with their Summer team. Flat ice should be a welcome surface by comparison to their mechanical nemesis of the past two weeks. They should welcome the opportunity to push then simply glide. We’ll see how much difference a couple of weeks of effort and pain makes.
Then next week its back to the pain. We’ll have to see who bows out and who, if any, is able to make it through to the end. No matter, they will all be somewhat richer for having had the experience. Of course, the Boy claims that his “old dad” had no idea how hard it is. In fact, he doesn’t think “old dad” would last a minute on the daunting machine. With ego firmly engaged, “old dad” may just have to jump on the treadmill to prove the “young lad” otherwise. There may, or may not, be photo evidence of said event…if/when it should actually come to pass.