1. Understand how to work with, and around, obstacles preventing a normal workout when traveling.
2. Describe how to conduct a high-performance training session when the conditions are not ideal.
3. Implement a body weight training program when no equipment is available on the road.
I have worked as the strength and conditioning coach for the USA Men’s Deaflympic ice hockey team since 1999. Every Deaflympics and/or World Championships the team travels to another country, or city in the US, to compete. The tournaments and trips are usually two weeks long. As such, we conduct warm-up and training sessions during the tournaments to maintain strength and power. In every case, we do not have access to a gym or a training facility. Because of this, we improvise to make the training environment as comfortable as possible.
Deaflympic Hockey Team
Any American hockey player who has a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels in their better ear can try-out for the team. In the last 21 years, the Deaflympics have been in 2019 (Italy), 2015 (Russia), 2011 (supposed to be Slovakia, but were cancelled), 2007 (Salt Lake City), 2003 (Sweden), and 1999 (Switzerland). The World Championships have been in Buffalo (2017), Helsinki (2013), and Winnipeg, Manitoba (2009).
Depending on many factors, sometimes we will have training camp in the US before leaving for the Deaflympics. We have had training camps at the Olympic Training Centers (OTC) in Colorado Springs and Lake Placid, NY. There are few obstacles when training at the OTC’s. The facilities and equipment are world class. The obstacle we have dealt with is athletes who have not trained properly prior to arriving at training camp. As such, there must be modified versions of the training to accommodate those athletes whose level of fitness will not allow them to do the normal preparation training the other players are doing. This is done because we do not want players to get injured during training camp.
The modifications take place primarily when the players are doing maintenance weight training. Because some of the players have not done the compound lifts regularly in their training program prior to arriving at training camp, they will do body weight exercises instead of lifting weights.
Preparation for Over-sea Flights
Over-sea flights are an obstacle because of jet lag. As such, we want the players to sleep as much on the flight as possible. Therefore, we advise them to stop drinking fluids one hour prior to the flight so they can sleep and not have to go to the bathroom as much during the flight. They are well fed on the flights, so we do not worry about the players getting enough to eat. And airlines offer foam ear plugs and eye masks to help passengers sleep.
We suggest for players to wear comfortable clothes (usually team warm-up suits) and to bring whatever sleep aids they normally take. When the last meal is served before landing, we recommend the players to hydrate in earnest. And we want them to carry water bottles so they can continue to hydrate when we land. It is especially important they have their “own” fluid in case they do not want to drink the water of the country in which we land.
The obstacle once we land is to get the players body clocks adjusted to local time. We do this by getting the players moving as soon as possible after landing (absolutely no naps when we arrive). After hotel check-in and a snack, we go to the rink where we will have a prolonged stretching and foam rolling warm-up followed by an on-ice practice. After practice we stretch and foam roll again.
Training Facilities Around the World
The biggest obstacle for training is not having a facility in which to do the conditioning we need to maintain the players strength, power, and anaerobic power. Following are some examples of the type of facilities (or lack thereof) we have used for training:
1999 Davos, Switzerland – there was no inside facility in which we could do training. We were lucky the weather was mild and we were able to train outside on a wooden patio just outside the locker room. The obstacle was not so much the facility, but rather that some players thought it was too cold to train outside. I assured them that training in 40 – 50-degree Fahrenheit temperatures was healthy. We stretched, body weight training, and jump training. Some players felt uncomfortable because of the elevation of 5120 feet, but they quickly acclimatized.
2003 Sundsvall, Sweden – we used a gymnasium beside the arena. As normal, there was no equipment, so we stretched, performed body weight training, and jump training.
2007 Salt Lake City, UT. – we used a conference room in the hotel for training. The only equipment we had were chairs, which we used for jump training. The advantage of using a conference room was the carpet on the floor and we could stretch and do other body weight exercises in prone positions.
2009 Winnipeg, Manitoba – we trained in a small lobby off of the main lobby in the hotel. It was a very small space, but we made it work by training in two groups at different times. It was unusual because people staying in the hotel would stop to watch us train.
2013 Helsinki – we trained in a small, and somewhat dirty lobby of a night club in the basement of the hotel. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, after the night club had shut down hours before, there were empty beer bottles, half full glasses of alcohol, and cigarette butts all over. On this trip, we were lucky enough to have rubber resistance bands from Theraband to use for conditioning. After the beer bottles, glasses, and cigarette butts, we changed the training to the arena, but we were on a concrete floor, so we did all exercises standing.
2015 Russia – I did not go on this trip, but the team Captains did stretching with the team in a corner of the arena.
2017 Buffalo – We trained on a sport court inside the arena complex. The only obstacle was that the court is hard and not conducive for prone exercises. Having said that, we gently stretched and foam rolled on the court and did the interval training, jump training, and body weight training on the court. We also did foam rolling in a conference room at the hotel.
2019 Chiavenna, Italy – The Italy Deaflympics presented one of the biggest obstacles we have experienced. The arena was an open-air facility with no large space in which to train. We started our training on a soccer field because the temperature was mild; however, it snowed the next day and the field was wet for the rest of the games. After the soccer field, we moved into an unheated indoor tennis court. I had asked the players to bring yoga matts so we could perform exercises on the floor, which made it much more comfortable. We were training in cooler temperatures, but the players, the sign language interpreters, and I wore appropriate clothing and it turned out to be a good facility in which to train. We had excellent workouts with body weight partner training, jump training, agility training (we used water bottles as “agility cues”), stretching, and foam rolling.
High Performance Body Weight Training
One of the obstacles when training at the Deaflympics or World Championships is we have no exercise equipment. As such, we do body weight training, jump training, and agility training. The first so called “obstacle” is doing the training on non-game days and allowing enough time for recovery from higher intensity training.
If we had two days off before our next game, we would do a full workout for all body parts. This workout includes the following body weight partner exercises:
-Upper body pushing and pulling – closed kinetic chain – 2 or 3 sets for power (5 – 8 reps).
-Upper body plyo push-ups – 1 or 2 sets, 10 reps.
-Static and dynamic core training – static core training includes exercises such as front planks and back bridges, holding for 30-counts. Dynamic core training includes partner pushing/pulling while maintaining balance on two-feet – 2 or 3 sets, pushing/pulling for 15 – 30-seconds.
-Jump training – 3 exercises, 10 – 15 reps.
-Agility training with partners – 3/30-45 second intervals of the drill.
Stretching and Foam Rolling on Hard Surfaces
Training on hard surfaces is an obstacle. It is uncomfortable and limits the exercises we can do. I finally asked the players to bring yoga matts for the Italy Deaflympics. I had not done this before because I thought it would be “one more thing” the players needed to remember to bring on the trip. After consulting the rest of the coaching staff, we all agreed it was not a big deal to ask the players to bring yoga matts. The yoga matt made a huge difference in the comfort for stretching and foam rolling. We were able to do approximately 50% more exercises using the yoga matts.