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Star Factory Fitness interview

September 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Hi folks! I was recently interviewed by Conor Doherty of Star Factory Fitness. We talked about my hockey career, my training career, and hockey training in general. The interview originally posted on elitehockeypower.com on September 18, 2014. Have a read either there, or below! Also, be sure to visit starfactoryfitness.com and elitehockeypower.com for some great hockey training and fitness tips. Both sites are also on Twitter @sfactoryfitness and @ehockeypower.

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Interview with Former Pro Hockey Player Dave Cunning

Playing pro hockey is something that all motivated hockey players strive for.  Not everyone will reach that level, but having a former pro hockey player give you advice never hurts.  So I’m very pleased to have Dave Cunning share with you some of the things he learned and experienced along the way to becoming a pro hockey player and what it takes to play at that level.


1. Hey David, Nice to have you on the site.  I’m interested, along with other readers, what sports you played growing up?

I started playing hockey and soccer when I was five years old, but soccer eventually gave way to baseball. I used to ski when I was a kid too, but I transitioned to snowboarding when I got older, and learned to wakeboard after that. My family plays a lot of badminton, so I picked that up, along with golf. I played volleyball and basketball in elementary and high school. I recall trying archery at one point too. I was obviously pretty deep into sports. Hockey eventually won out over them all, though I still participate in most of the others from time to time.

2. I hear you’ve played a bit of pro hockey. Tell us a bit about your hockey career.

Getting to play in the pro ranks was a dream come true that I worked very hard for a lot of years to accomplish. It took me 17 years to rise through minor, junior, and college hockey before I had the opportunity to fly across the world to Europe and play professionally. Scoring a goal in my first game as a pro made every second of that struggle worth it. It was an amazing feeling to play at that level, and remains one of my greatest accomplishments. A lot of guys played a lot longer and had a lot more lucrative careers than I did, but I cherish the time that I had to live out my dream and play at that level. Hockey allowed me to travel through four countries to play, and to meet some of the best friends that I have, so I am very thankful for the time I had to play the game.

3. Did you have a strength and conditioning coach with any of the junior or pro teams you played with?

I remember having strength and conditioning coaches with my junior team (Creston Thundercats of the KIJHL) and my college team (Briecrest College of the ACAC), but oddly not with my pro team in France (Lyon HC). They were helpful to have around, usually doing group sessions with our entire team. I know a lot of guys were like me and didn’t utilize them as much as we probably should have. A lot of the exercises I picked up were from teammates sharing parts of their training routines with me, which I cherry picked from to help form my own approach to training. If I’d had the money to hire one of them I probably would have, but there isn’t a lot of money in junior and college hockey – at least not where I was and when I was there.

4. If so, tell us a bit about the programs that those coaches took you through.

Again, I didn’t get the most out of the strength coaches that were around, but the gist of what they were trying to teach us as a group was to train specifically for our sport, and to train the muscles and movements that hockey players use in the game. There was a lot of power and quickness prescribed to be used in each motion. They were trying to get us away from just general bodybuilding exercises – though there were always a few guys who insisted on coming in to just train chest and biceps, no matter what they were told to the contrary. A lot of the advice that was doled out to us over a few sessions at the beginning of the season, then we were on our own to carry it out that year, save for a few sporadic check-ups here and there. We had pre-season and mid-season fitness testing too. It’s important to remember that a hockey season is rather grueling physically, so our in-season workouts were nowhere near as intense as they were in the off-season. It was maintenance more than anything.

former pro hockey player

5. Were there any differences between junior and pro strength coaches, in terms of their programming and beliefs about strength training?

I think my junior and college strength coaches were very much of the same school of thought, though they all had different sports backgrounds. They all knew it was an important component for an athlete though. What I think might have been the difference between training between amateur and pro was the geography and perhaps the language barrier. In Lyon we had a gym at the rink, but it was pretty basic. Most of the times I would go in there to train, I would be the only one. The guys could have been going somewhere else to workout that I didn’t know of, but I didn’t have a strong enough level of French to find out where that was if that was what was happening. I think in Canada, you get spoiled a little as hockey players because our whole country is so in love with hockey and the guys and girls who play it have a plethora of options in front of them to take advantage of to get better at it. You can find a trainer at a gym to train you specifically for hockey at a gym, or you can find a hockey school in your town to improve your gameplay. Not every country in the world has that high of a regard for hockey, so those options aren’t as readily available, as it appeared to be where I was. Surely other nations who embrace the game like Canada does are different though.

6. What made you want to become a strength and conditioning coach?

When I realized that my playing days were done, I knew I wanted to stay involved in the game, and I had to think about which capacity would be the best fit for me to do so. Remembering back to when I was playing, I loved working out in the summers with a buddy of mine – we pushed each other as hard as we could to get stronger, faster, and better so that we could keep going farther in the game. I loved being motivated by a like-minded person, and I loved being that same thing to someone else. It paid off for us both, as we both eventually become pros (though he got an NHL tryout, so he got farther along than I did). I saw becoming a strength coach as an opportunity to help other players see what it takes to get where they want to go, and help be one part of their preparation and motivation to go as far as they could in the game. It’s been awesome to watch the players I’ve trained get noticeably stronger and quicker, and have a bigger impact on their team than before.

7. What types of courses or certifications did you take to become a strength coach?

I graduated through the BCRPA Personal Trainer certification program.

8. What level of hockey players do you train at the moment?

I’m currently overseas in Korea teaching English, so I am only training general fitness clients on the side at the moment. But while I was still in Canada, I was regularly training WHL, BCHL, and KIJHL players, and plan to do so again when I return home.

9. Take us through what a workout would look like during the season and the off-season.

Off-season workouts are a lot more physical than in-season ones, but that is for a reason. You aren’t skating everyday and playing every weekend in the summer, nor are you battling fatigue and injuries, so you have to balance the two training seasons appropriately. The off-season’s for building strength, size, quickness, stamina, power, mobility, and range of motion, while in-season training is primarily about maintaining those attributes. Off-season workouts see you lift a lot of weight, perform a lot of sets, and execute each motion with a lot of a lot of power to help build the specific major and minor muscle groups that hockey players use most during the game. There are a lot of all-out sprints and related exercises to get your feet moving as quick as they ever have, in hopes of that translating into you becoming a quicker skater during the season. While you work out through hockey season, you perform a lot of the same exercises and motions, but you do it with an approach that doesn’t leave you sore, tired, or otherwise not in optimal condition when it comes to game time. Every level of hockey has a different length of season, and you have to be ready for each game whether it’s the first, last, or somewhere mid-season. Usually in-season workouts have guys scaling back their sets and reps, and not pushing their limits, though they do their best to maintain the benchmarks they’ve already set, and not regress in any categories.

10. What sets apart the players that really get great results compared to those that get average results from training?

It’s simply the dedication to get the work done, and to use your time wisely. In junior hockey and pro hockey, you have a lot more extra time in your day, so there are less excuses to miss workouts – though some guys always find a way. In college hockey, you have to balance student life, class schedules, and everything else, so it’s tougher to find the time, and it’s really easy to pass on trips to the gym. It becomes about prioritizing your time to do it, no matter what your current lifestyle allows. The guys who make that time to get better are almost always the guys who have the most success.

11. When you played pro hockey, was there a player(s) that really stood out in the weight room compared to others?

There were always two or three guys on every team I played for that were standouts in the gym, and had the bodies to show for it. I saw each one of them put in the time and effort to get themselves there. One guy in particular was Bobby Leavins – he was a New York Islanders draft pick, and had played a season of minor pro, so to have him on our college team as our captain was huge for us. He brought his dedication to off-ice training to our team, and always made time to get in the gym. Our school’s gym was located in the basketball/volleyball gymnasium, and somehow Bobby had managed to get himself a gym key so he could workout even when the gym was closed. One time during a school event, the gym was packed with students, including our team, all focused on whatever event was taking place in the gymnasium that night. Conspicuously, Bobby was nowhere to be found – until further inspection revealed that he had made his made his way into the gym with his key, kept the main lights off and smuggled in a desk lamp, and was basically working out in the dark, undetected until I found him. Despite playing as a left-winger as a pro, Bobby moved back to defense for our team, and still finished second in team scoring. The guy was definitely doing something right, and I know his commitment to training had something to do with it.

12. If you could give hockey players that want to start an off-ice training program any advice, what would it be?

My advice would be to do it! A lot of guys unfortunately don’t get past the stage of talking about it and saying they want to start doing it. Whether you hire a trainer, find a like-minded gym buddy, or research and put together your own program, just get to it. Of course I recommend hiring a professional over all the other options – certified trainers are educated to make your training routines sport specific, efficient, and optimized to make you the best you can be, when you need to be. Of course, trainers are an investment, and some players think that they know enough and don’t need them. While some players have the luxury on relying on natural talent to ascend in the sport, most guys have to work for everything they get. Whether you can afford to hire a trainer or not really is a question of whether you can afford to be less prepared than you could be if you did. Personally, after becoming a trainer and learning the approaches and methodologies I know now, and after seeing how many NHLers hire trainers and seeing how hard they work in the summer, part of me wishes I had made that investment when I was still playing. Competition for spots on teams at every level is so intense these days – players have to find a way to stand out from the crowd to get one of those open spots on a roster. If off-ice training is the thing that helps you catch a scout or coach’s eye in training camp, there’s no question it’s worth the investment. Never be satisfied with where you’re at – in hockey there’s always someone younger, bigger, and better that wants to be where you are, so you’ve got to do what it takes to keep your place, or be the one that takes someone else’s spot.

You can find out more about David and his work at:

His Websites: davecunning.wordpress.com and cunningathletics.wordpress.com

Twitter: @davecunning and @CunningAthletix

Podcast: http://xppsp.podbean.com

Summer Dryland Hockey Training Camp – June/July 2011

June 11, 2011 Leave a comment

As one of the focuses of this blog is self-promotion, I’d like to use this post to promote the Dryland Hockey Training Camp that I will be leading at Blackbelts gym, starting on June 21.  The camp will run twice a week; Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30pm, and continue on for a 6 week period.  You can sign up for the entire camp, or drop-in casually.  The program will aim towards improving players’ aerobic and anaerobic fitness, as well as their speed, strength, quickness, flexibility, and quick thinking, while utilizing the dynamic, plyometric and resistance training techniques that are most beneficial and parallel to the motions and actions hockey players perform during a game.  And perhaps best of all, we’ll be training outside, under the beautiful summer sun.  The later start time will allow for a more reasonable temperature to train in, while still being hot enough for everyone to work on their tans. 

We will be working towards helping players to peak in their fitness for the month of August, the month when most junior hockey rookie and main camps will commence.  Personally, I always dreaded this time of year.  But the condition you arrive at camp in is, more often than not, a direct indication of what level you’ll find yourself fitting in at on the team; at least in the beginning.  In a nutshell, if you’re concerned about either making the team, or contributing to your team, taking your off-season fitness seriously is worth your time, effort, and money. 

I am fortunate to be friends with a guy whose dad played in the NHL during the 70’s and 80’s, and one story I remember his dad telling me was regarding his training camp experiences, and the shift in mentality about them during his era of play.  Basically, in those days, training camp was the time NHL players would actually start working out and getting in shape for the season, so it wasn’t uncommon for those camps to be pretty lackluster, lung-capacity wise.  Everything was well and good with that status quo until the rookies progressively started to come to camp already in shape, and well ahead of the pack in terms of fitness, in hopes of taking away a roster spot from a veteran.  While some of the older players may have mocked or ridiculed those players for doing so, the result was that those rookies were indeed getting their names written on the game sheets, while those who were less prepared saw their starts diminish.  Veterans began to take notice of the smaller numbers appearing on their paycheques, and started to shape-up, literally; realizing their spots may not be as secure as they may have once thought.  

And progressively, over time, that approach and mentality shifted to the product we have now: players devoting their entire summers, starting immediately after their last season game, to preparing themselves physically for next season; either in hopes of cracking a lineup for the first time, or just to keep their spot on the team depth chart and/or payroll.  And if you were to ever watch game film from the 70’s and now side by side and compare the levels of play and role of physical preparation, the products are clearly night and day, and the proof is very obviously  in the pudding.

Players competing at all levels of hockey are welcome to join the camp.  Drop by Blackbelts (behind the Lake Country Tim Hortons’ in the Lakewood Mall), or call in (250 766 5665) to reserve your spot, as space is limited!  You can also leave a comment on this post or email me at davecunning09@shaw.ca if you want to get your name on the list.  If you’re taking your hockey training seriously this summer, I hope to see you at camp!

Train Smarter This Summer, and Step Ahead Next Season.

May 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Hi folks, time for some shameless self-promotion :)  This post was featured as a printed article in the April 8/11 issue of “The View” in Lake Country, BC.  It deals with some thoughts on summer hockey training.  Seems appropriate as every hockey team in the world (besides the Cup finals teams) are in their off-season now.  Have a read, and feel free to get in touch with me if you wanna talk training this summer, or ever!

-SDC

 

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When I was playing minor hockey in the 90’s, seeing other players participate in off-ice training was a rarity. After all, hockey was all about having fun. As I got older, I realized I wanted to play as long as I could and at the highest level possible; and that to do that’d I’d have to take the game more seriously. As I progressed up through my junior, college, and pro career, it became pretty obvious that these higher level leagues were filled with players who had been devoting time to their off-ice fitness, as well as further developing their on-ice skills; and that the players who chose to rely purely on their natural talent to progress, rather than add any extra-curricular fitness methodologies to their repertoire, all seemed to vanish from team rosters. As the level of play I competed at elevated, my natural skills for the game seemed to average out compared to other players; mostly because the level of competition and talent I played against increased at every increment. Moves I could make and goals I could score at lower levels became progressively more inadmissible the higher level I played at. I had to find a way to adapt my game if I were to have any success, and advance further in the game, as I aspired to. Devotion to off-ice training became an absolute necessity, and without it, I doubt I would have made it as far in hockey as I did. One of the most inspiring and applicable quotes I’ve heard in regards to this transition is, “Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard.” Just ask the 8th seeded 2010 Montreal Canadiens about this idea, after beating the talent laden 1st place Washington Capitals and the previous year’s Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in that year’s NHL playoffs.

Sled Pulls. One of many miserable exercises that will get you in tremendous shape.

The difference in hockey training that sticks out most to me when I compare my generation to the current one is that, unlike when I was young and only a few players were committed to their off-ice training, it seems that nowadays any player that is remotely serious about furthering their hockey career has acknowledged the need to improve their physical fitness away from the rink. So now that the secret is out and the standard just to be average is set so high, the challenge for young hockey players hoping to move up the ladder is to decipher a way to rise above the already high median and stick out in a positive and attractive way.

My suggestion for accomplishing this task is the notion of training smarter. While it’s great to attend summer hockey camps, spring leagues, enroll in hockey academies, and explore other methods in getting ahead of the curve, those large group setting models may not be the most beneficial for player improvement, and can prove quite costly as well. Individual attention may be minimized, and a personalized program tailored to a player’s unique goals and attributes likely gets waived in favour of a general set of standards that everyone is expected to achieve. Whether you’re a centerman, left-winger, right-winger, defenceman, or goaltender; every position has a unique on-ice job description that requires different motions and actions to be performed, and different muscles to be activated in different scenarios. So how would a goaltender specifically benefit from partaking in the same program as a forward, when both will need to be strong in completely different ways in a game?

You may or may not be familiar with the term, “Periodization”. This is breaking a season up into smaller focus points: pre-season, in-season, post-season, and off-season. The concept helps to identify which training methods are most appropriate to a player’s development, and when. For example, the way off-season weight training focuses on heavy weight/low repetitions for maximum strength gains is nearly polar opposite to the post-season phase (playoffs), where players focus on simple maintenance of their strength and cardio, and may not lift more than their own body weight while weight training. Because different levels of hockey hold their playoffs at different points in the season, it is imperative that a player’s workout routine enables him or her to peak at the correct point in the season. Minor hockey will generally finish around March, while junior hockey can continue on until May, college hockey can last until late March/early April, and of course the NHL can take until June to complete. If a player’s body is not trained to adapt to and endure this changing but predictable schedule, they likely will not compete at their optimal level, at the time when their team needs them the most.

This is where a Personal Trainer can become an invaluable resource to a player. Often times, players will string together routines based on what others have told them, or perhaps on their own intuition. And more often than not, these workouts degrade into “beach workouts”, featuring chest, biceps, and abs exercises only. While they may indeed put on size and strength this way, their sport specific improvements will likely be limited. Working with a fitness professional can optimize a player’s development by maximizing their off-ice efficiency and gains, translating those improvements into a more effective on-ice product, showing you testable results, and navigating you down the quickest route to obtaining your fitness goals.

If you are a hockey player aspiring to advance to the next level and beyond, do yourself a favour and seek out a qualified Personal Trainer to keep you on track, no matter what phase your season is in. After all, the last day of the season is also the first day towards next season. Use your training time wisely and give yourself the best chance possible to be a stand-out player next year. If training smarter sounds like something you would benefit from, I’d be more than happy to work with you this summer to motivate, educate, and create a program that will spur you on towards being the best player you can be next season and beyond.

If you live in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Winfield, or Vernon I’d be happy to meet you at one of the facilities I’m affiliated with; otherwise, get in touch with me via email.

Blog:http://davecunning.wordpress.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Twitter: @davecunning                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Email:davecunning09@shaw.ca                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Phone: 250 826 7489

 

What do Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana, & Skechers All Have In Common? They All Need To Shape-Up.

February 28, 2011 2 comments

Wayne retired in 1999, these come out 10 years later... yeah sounds airtight.

If you paid much attention to this year’s Superbowl commercials (as most people do, more so than the actual game being played), or you watch TV with even moderate regularity, you may have seen the ads for Skechers’ latest shoes (though the technology has been around for 10 years, and has been employed by multiple other companies), their “Shape-Ups”.  While I don’t usually bother paying much attention to commercials at all, I feel this one irked me a little bit on a professional level, and I feel the need to explain why.

Skechers is claiming that their latest and greatest shoes will make you “get in shape without setting foot in a gym” by just walking around, and that you might as well “say bye-bye, trainer.” As a Personal Trainer myself, I’m sure you can put together why this bothers me; at least if you consider that that they’re basically saying that my profession is a hinderance, and isn’t worth your time or money. I just can’t let that slide.

From their website, here’s why Skechers say you NEED their new shoes: “Shape-ups are designed to help you tone your muscles – from your back and abdomen to your buttocks and calves. Shape-ups may help you lose weight and improve your circulation, creating a healthier you.” You are free to look up the science of the shoes’ claims; but long story short, an insert in the in-sole and an unconventionally shaped sole create a modified walking stride, theoretically engage muscles that don’t usually get used in the typical human walking motion, and thusly make you huge, and dissolve your need to ever exercise again in any other form.

Here’s the thing: they’re just not telling you the whole story. While the approach does have some decent scientifically grounded theory (making muscles work can produce hypertrophy [getting bigger] ), these shoes are just like any late-night infomercial selling the most recently invented product that will (well, claims to) grant you six-pack abs while you do next to nothing. In most cases, the product does actually assist in making your body perform an isotonic action that will stress the muscle it claims to, make you “feel the burn”, and think that the product is the miracle its creators told you it was. The thing that doesn’t get said is that for you to actually lose that body fat and chisel out your inner beach body, you need to follow the unadvertised cardio regimen to engage your aerobic system, as well as the diet plan (both of which are included in the packaging), and that you need to do so consistently over an extended period of time. For some reason, these critical points never make it into the advertising campaign.

I know that just wearing a pair of shoes and walking around probably sounds a lot more appealing than sustained and consistent exercise, so if no one else has already, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you that getting “More toned and strengthened leg, back, buttock and abdominal muscles, reduced body fat, improved circulation, aerobic conditioning and exercise tolerance, improved posture, relieving muscle tension and back/joint problems” is a little more difficult than Skechers and their unidentified “Doctors and researchers” would have you believe [interestingly, their website’s fine print states, “Walking regularly in Shape-ups may lead to the fitness benefits indicated on this page. Individual results may vary. These independent case studies were commissioned by SKECHERS. Results may vary from person to person. For the greatest results, walking in Shape-ups should be combined with a proper diet and regular exercise regimen.]

Another angle to consider is, of course, their celebrity endorsements. Commercial and website advertisements feature Kim Kardashian, Brooke Burke, Joe Montana, and my boyhood hero, Wayne Gretzky. I have no problem blasting the former three, but jabbing at The Great One is pretty tough for me, as he influenced a large portion of my childhood. But for a lot of people, I’m sure that’s the sell. “Wow look, Gretzky wears them, and he’s never done anything wrong or lied to us, they must be great!” I’m sure that’s how it’s sounded in many people’s heads as they debate whether their $100 – $300 is potentially being well spent on these shoes or not. But look everyone, were any of these aforementioned celebrities out of shape before these shoes existed? Did these shoes affect the playing careers of Wayne or Joe, both of whom completed their days as active players long before the shoes existed? Have the more than a decade old acting/modelling careers of Kardashian and Burke benefited from shoes that only just appeared on the market? Get serious. Shame on you, Wayne, shame (Gretz also recently played air-hockey with Justin Bieber on national TV, and gave him an autographed jersey; I’ve been meaning to having a word with Wayne for a while now).

So for argument’s sake, let’s give this gimmick the benefit of the doubt; let’s say the science is all dead on, and they work. My next question to you is, how long until they end up in your closet or storage room with along with the AbFlex, Ab-Roller, and every other fitness product you bought, used for a while, and then became disinterested in? In the end, this is where us trainers come in, and will remain: as motivators, educators, and enablers. Sticking to any fitness routine for the period of time it takes to see real benefit from is difficult, especially if you wouldn’t describe yourself as a self-motivated person. On more than one occasion now, my training clients have told me that there’s no way they would work as hard as they do with me if they were in the gym alone, if they even came to the gym at all. If you really want the results that the smokescreen of gimmicks promises you, eventually you’ll discover that the only way to achieve them is really is through hard work; and that sometimes the best way to realize your full physical potential is to have a Personal Trainer push you through to them.

Personal Trainers are equipped with the knowledge of how your body actually works — which hasn’t changed since humanity began.  Though gimmick fitness products would argue only they possess the secret to fitness, the real facts remain that to lose weight, you need to burn off more calories than you put into your body on a daily basis; and this is achieved by getting your heart pumping at a mathematically determined Training Heart Rate exclusive to your personal attributes,( ideally from 20 -60 minutes, and 2-6 days a week), taxing your aerobic system to draw in more oxygen and expel more carbon dioxide, and increasing the efficiency of your heart.  There are different aerobic training methods and approaches, and a Personal Trainer can steer you in the direction of which methods are most appropriate for your fitness level, body type, and fitness goals.  These methods and calculations is not information that most people are aware of, and many people get stuck and frustrated from not achieving their own goals because they are training like other people and not appropriately to themselves.  Along with motivation, a Personal Trainer can help you achieve your fitness goals faster by making your workouts more efficient and directed; avoiding time and energy wasted training in unnecessary and inappropriate approaches, thusly getting you “in shape” much quicker than on your own.  When you think about you, a Personal Trainer is the real shortcut, not the unused gimmick device collecting dust in your closet.

So if you live in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country, or Vernon, I’d be happy to spur you on to reaching your fitness goals the – regardless of what they are, or what kind of shoes you wear! Email ( davecunning09@shaw.ca ) , call ( 250 826 7489 ) , or Twitter ( @davecunning ) me today to book a training session!

 

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