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Staying in Game Shape A Priority for the Sled Hockey Team

By Steve Drumwright, 05/22/23, 6:30PM EDT


Diet, exercise and sleep all play a crucial part in each player’s daily routine

A healthy body and mind often lead to better results on the athletic field, regardless of the sport.

But how an athlete gets there often differs as much as the athletes themselves. There are many commonalities, and each individual has their own take on what is best for them.

For three of the top players on the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, balancing proper nutrition and physical fitness all while staying in playing shape with big gaps in their schedules presents a challenge they all accept.

“It's making sure that I have enough energy to be at practice and be 100% or as close to 100% as I'm able to get, it's making sure that I'm available for everyone when I'm on the team to be a leader and I'm not deficient one way because I know if my habits are solid and my play is solid, then I can go out and help everybody else out,” said Josh Pauls, a two-time Paralympic team captain and four-time gold medalist. 

Keeping a routine is important, especially when at home. That can get thrown off when the national team has games or camps, or when the players are with other teams as they stay in shape.

“The biggest challenge for me is how much we travel,” said Declan Farmer, a three-time Paralympic gold medalist. “When I'm home, I can really get into a routine with my diet and stuff and when we travel that gets thrown off a little bit both of what we're eating and the timing of everything. 

“Guys who are more in tune with their diet like me will often bring stuff like overnight oat mixes to at least have one consistent meal a day during a tournament. But when I'm at home, I try to eat pretty clean.”

Overnight oats — no-cook oatmeal often with berries and other fruit that soak in milk overnight — were a consensus pick of the athletes as they contain better amounts of fiber, protein and nutrients and are easy to make as you can grab and go in the morning after preparing the night before.

Smoothies and protein powders are also easy to make and good for any occasion. Eggs and potatoes for breakfast, wraps and ramen noodles for lunch and a good dinner, such as chicken, rice and vegetables are also staples.

Food is only part of the formula for being in peak condition. Getting a good night’s sleep is very important to recovering from one day and being ready for the next.

“I keep that real consistent because that's how you get the most out of your sleep,” said Jack Wallace, a two-time Paralympic gold medalist. “It's really important to keep your bedtimes and wake times as consistent as possible, even if you don't have something early in the morning.”

Wallace said he gets to bed around 10:30 or 11 each night and gets up at 8 a.m. That has to adjust based on his schedule, though. While the team was in Beijing, they would commute 40 minutes away to work out at 7 a.m., so that threw off his typical routine. 

In between waking up, consuming those three meals and going to bed, there is staying in shape. That also can take many forms, aside from being on the ice multiple times per week.

“I lift weights, probably like six times a week,” Farmer said. “Mostly focusing on strength-based stuff and some power stuff in the past year. And then always get cardio, and we skate a lot. 

Farmer said he and his teammates typically skate around six hours a week to stay in playing shape. On top of that, he gets his cardio work done in other ways. Now living near Denver, Farmer said he likes to bike in the summer and ski in the winter. 

“I want to get more into cross-country skiing because that's obviously like a really good supplement for sled hockey,” he said. 

Being on the go all the time can present its own wear and tear on the body, so like sleeping, taking time for yourself is just as important. That doesn’t necessarily mean going on vacation.

“One thing I would say to do, making sure to do, especially in the offseason, is you're finding time to get away from hockey and just take a break in general and just kind of enjoy life,” Pauls said. “Because as much as I love the sport, it can be a grind especially for how much effort we have to put in at the top level.” 

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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