Peak Physical Fitness
From Field Hockey Techniques & Tactics by Claire Mitchell-Taverner
You may wonder how fit you need to be to play hockey. That depends entirely on the level of hockey that you aspire to play. Naturally, the higher the level of competition, the faster the speed of the game, and the fitter you must be.
To be a good field hockey player, you must be able to do the following: --Keep up with the pace of the game when on the field.
-Remain on the field, free of injury and fatigue.
-Be available for selection and present a strong case for selection so that you can get onto the field and show your skills.
Of course, few athletes are strong in all areas of physical fitness. For example, rarely is an athlete fast over short distances (10 to 15 metres) as well as able to endure long distances, but you can improve your base level of all these components by making a committed effort over time. Denise Jennings, physical preparation coordinator at the Victorian Institute of Sport and former elite hockey player, provides insight into the following discussion on speed, aerobic and anaerobic ability, and agility. Her significant contribution to this chapter will help you develop a training program for overall fitness, with special consideration of your specific position.
It’s unlikely that many players in your team are lightning quick over all distances. Some might be very explosive over a distance of 10 metres, whereas others have the ability to accelerate over a longer distance and maintain that speed for a longer period. Both abilities are valuable assets, but the value of each depends on the position you play.
Short, sharp speed is necessary in the midfield when players are looking to break lines in confined space, but the outright attackers (strikers) and defenders need to be quickest over both short and longer distances. Speed is critical for strikers who look to break from their immediate opponents and necessary also for defenders who need to catch a breakaway forward or get back in cover defence.
The key areas for speed development are as follows:
-Intensity of effort (percentage of maximum effort)
-Rest between each effort (work-to-rest ratio)
To maximize the specificity of training for hockey, at practice you should replicate the distances you cover in the game. The majority of high-intensity efforts or sprints are performed over distances of 5 to 15 metres. Longer efforts do occur, but they are the exception rather than the rule. When you’re developing speed, the first two to three steps are critical. This sharp acceleration could be the difference between getting a stick to the ball and being beaten to the ball by your opponent. The intensity of each effort is also critical. To develop speed you must give efforts of 100 percent. Anything less will compromise the extent to which you improve. As a result, the rest period for this training is longer than that used to develop repeated sprint efforts.
Strong aerobic fitness is critical, particularly for players in the midfield. But all field players need a strong aerobic base from which to develop other physiological abilities. A strong aerobic ability allows you to run all day and gives you the best opportunity to recover from sprint efforts.
Fatigue can affect the quality of your skill execution, but the frequency with which this occurs can be limited with a good aerobic base. Aerobic fitness also maximises your ability to recover between each sprint effort. This helps you to execute your skills with precision in the later stages of the game.
The following methods of training are commonly used for developing the aerobic base:
1. Continuous training at a constant elevated heart rate within a range of 140 to 160 beats per minute. You can determine the training zone by using the formula of 220 minus your age (your maximum heart rate) multiplied by .60 to .80. More experienced and elite athletes will be able to have a better ‘feel’ for their particular training zone from their own experience and training years.
2. Fartlek training.
3. Interval-based sessions.
Continuous, or steady-state, training involves performing a steady, constant, low-intensity activity for longer than 10 minutes. Usually, for the development of an aerobic base for a team sport, durations of 20 to 60 minutes are optimal at the level of intensity described earlier. Because hockey is a running-based sport, running is the preferred method of training. But cycling and swimming can also improve this energy system. Keep in mind that the continuous nature of this style of training does not replicate the game of hockey, which involves running at various speeds and in different directions. So, you need to do aerobic training in combination with other forms of training.
Note that aerobic training may impede your speed development. As a result, this training is best performed in the off-season when speed development is not emphasised so much in training.
This physical training is a continuous session (usually running), but it includes a variety of intensity efforts that replicate those efforts in the game of hockey.
Many activities can be included in a fartlek session: agility circuits, various efforts of intensity, backwards and forwards running and even skill training. Fartlek training is much more specific to hockey than a long, continuous running session because it more closely replicates the physical requirements of the game. Implementation of these sessions is limited only by your imagination, so you can be creative with fartlek and interval training.
Interval training involves using higher-intensity sprint efforts interspersed with rest periods. This type of training develops the following:
-The aerobic base is necessary for playing team sports such as hockey.
-The anaerobic energy system increases your ability to perform repeated sprint efforts with minimal rest.
Keep in mind the following two concepts when developing an interval session:
1. Work done. This is measured either by distance or time taken to implement the effort or the intensity of each effort.
2. Rest taken. This is the amount of rest prescribed between each effort.
The combination of these two areas determines the work-to-rest ratio, which determines how difficult a session will be. The lower the ratio, the harder the session, whereas a higher ratio prescribes more rest per effort, so it is easier. The particular stage of physical preparation of the team or individual will determine the best ratio in each instance.
The length of an interval effort also varies according to the time of year or stage and emphasis of the training phase. Earlier in preseason, longer intervals of 200 to 300 metres (220 to 330 yards) would be used with rest periods of up to 3 minutes. Sessions closer to the start of the season will require the distances of each interval to shorten to 5 to 20 metres (about 5.5 to 22 yards) of high-intensity efforts, with shorter breaks of only 10 to 20 seconds interspersed. You can manipulate interval training to simulate the physical characteristics of a hockey game. Therefore, interval training is the best type of physical training to use to train for match conditions.