Lactate Analysis: Hockey

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Ever watch just one player on the ice during a hockey game?  Unless you’re actually at the game, your forced to watch the puck.  What’s interesting when you watch only one player (especially a very good one) is that they know when to back off the intensity. 

Take, Sidney Crosby for example.  Although it would seem that he is ‘everywhere’ on the ice; he would rarely go longer than 10 seconds all out.  A player like Crosby would probably know that if he goes longer than 10 seconds flat out, his lactate levels are going to build up, and he could potentially get injured.  Lactate isn’t the cause of the injury but a factor in tiring the hockey player making them susceptible to being hit. 

Lactate (for all its bad press), is just energy.  If the working muscle requires a large expenditure of energy, such as a sprint down the ice or a breakaway, the muscles must produce the power necessary for this process.  The first system used is the ATP system which is sustained for about 5-10 seconds.  After this, if the intensity is still high, the lactate system is triggered to keep the process going.  Once this system has been taxed, the athlete has only a finite amount of energy stored to keep the system going. 

You see it a lot in the play-offs and at minor league level games.  Players cannot keep their intensities up later in the game because they’ve pushed through their energy reserves.  Too many long hard shifts at the beginning of the game will result in a very slow back checking third period.

To help prevent the onset of fatigue, make sure to have full energy stores prior to the game (high carbohydrate meal 4 hours before).  Also, make sure to keep intense training to a minimum the day before the game.  A few short sprints to loosen the legs are ok but go easy in long practices or workouts.

Gretzky was a master of being clutch in the third period.  His V02 max was never outstanding but his knowledge of how his body worked was.  He was able to play better because he knew when to back it off. 

Be a third period hero by taking regular shifts.  Your body will thank you for it.