Trail Smoke Eater defenceman Jeremy Lucchini keeps in game shape over the summer by following a well-designed fitness program at Elevate Fitness in Trail. Jim Bailey photo.

Local athletes Elevate game in off-season

Off-season training is no longer an option for high-performance athletes, it’s a necessity.

In competitive sport, there is no such thing as the off-season anymore.

Athletes are required to work just as hard if not harder during their “down-time” as they are when they compete in the regular season. For many local athletes accessing and implementing a program is essential, and recovery from a long season, improving fitness and strength training crucial.

“Simply put, if these athletes are not doing it, other athletes are,” said Andrew van der Ham owner/trainer of Elevate Fitness in Trail. “The way the industry has gone and the way science has progressed, all sports have gotten more impressive. These days coaches are looking at fitness more and more as athletes come into their programs.”

For local teams like the Trail Smoke Eaters, Beaver Valley Nitehawks, Red Mountain Racers, Black Jack skiers, or Seven Summits Gravity Racers, off-season training for its athletes is imperative if they want to compete, and while each sport has its own focus and set of parameters, the benefits of off-season work reap rewards during the regular season.

“This day and age the old style of playing golf and going to the beach and just working out beach muscles or getting in shape in training camp doesn’t work,” said Smoke Eater coach Cam Keith. “They’re all training now and using specific trainers that know the science behind it.”

Competition is fierce in team sports but perhaps even more so in individual sports with high-aerobic and conditioning requirements like cross-country skiing. Black Jack cross-country ski coach David Wood, summed it up nicely for the Times: “The summer training is crucial. We like to say, ‘Skiers are made in the summer.’”

Black Jack skiers regularly attend summer training camps ranging from high-intensity dry-land training in Kaslo to ascending the 2,400-metre Haig Glacier in Alberta for simulated snow training.

”A typical training season will have a skier doing 70 per cent of their training volume by Dec. 1,” explained Wood, a former coach of National Ski Team. “Once the racing season begins, athletes will actually train less as they use days travelling to competitions and cannot train as much with racing.”

For the Smoke Eaters, owner Rich and Annie Murphy’s enhancements to the Trail Memorial Centre will certainly help, and access to trainers has put even more emphasis on fitness, bringing a greater awareness and competitive edge among the players.

“When I first came in, I think a lot of kids in this area took training lightly and now with the improvements with the gym and the facilities in our rink combined with Andrew (van der Ham) pushing his kids pretty hard in this area – it’s showing,” said Keith.

The intense summer training also helps counter other setbacks, like late-season illnesses or the injury bug that bit the Smoke Eaters at the end of last season and in playoffs.

“A lot of it is also not just improving performance, but also reducing the likelihood of injuries,” said van der Ham. “If I can take an athlete over the course of their offseason and they don’t improve much in areas of fitness, but they make it through the whole season without getting hurt, I consider this an absolute victory. The fittest athlete will do his or her team no good if they are on the sideline with a shoulder or knee injury that may have been prevented due to quality preparedness in the offseason.”

A former varsity soccer player at Thompson Rivers University, van der Ham’s list of credentials include a Ba in Human Kinetics from UBC-Okanagan, a registered massage therapist, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and a kinesiologist. He has worked with a variety of professional athletes and sports teams, and participated in a strength and conditioning conference with the MLS Seattle Sounders. As a result, van der Ham understands the intense competitive nature of elite sport and its specific demands, and passes on those benefits to his athletes.

“Elevate takes years of education, experience, and the latest evidence based research, and puts it into a package for athletes to take advantage of,” he said. “I wanted to have a facility where athletes of all sports could train to their highest potential by having space to move, sprint, jump, and lift heavy weights.”

Many of the homegrown hockey players from the Smoke Eaters and Nitehawks like Jeremy Lucchini, Tyler Ghirardosi, Jake Yuris, Blake Sidoni, Karsten Jang, Ross Armour, and Spencer McLean work out with van der Ham in preparation of the 2017 season.

“I think one of the biggest tragedies now in the fitness industry is when athletes are being put through random acts of fitness and it is considered ‘training’,” said van der Ham. “Having a training facility that is immersed in the sports sciences means having a way to assess an athlete to begin their training journey properly.”

But Elevate isn’t only for the elite athlete, fitness and strength training is also available to the regular Joes and Joannes. Van der Ham and his team work with those who are looking for preventative therapy, rehabilitating from injury, or just looking to get fit.

“We definitely cater to everyone,” said van der Ham. “We do a lot of adult group training and individuals that just want to get in shape. While the regular Joe is usually not as specific or planned out as a high performance athlete, they are just as important and just as fun.”

For more info contact Elevate Sport and Health at www.elevate-sports.ca.

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