Contributed by Sheryl Normandeau (Calgary, AB)
WHETHER IT’S IN THE TEAM BUS, in a caravan of vehicles, or on an airplane, travel is a necessary part of the sport of hockey. Keeping young hockey players healthy and ready to play the game they love can be a challenge on the road – no matter if it’s an hour’s journey to the next arena, or a day or two (and another time zone) away. Consider these tips for staying happy and fit en route to the big game:
Stay on track with healthy food choices.
There is a tendency to stave off the boredom and stress of travelling by consuming snack foods laden with fat, sugar, and sodium: potato chips, chocolate bars, and candy, and caffeinated beverages in the form of colas and energy drinks.
These types of foods only result in somersaulting blood sugar levels and a general feeling of heaviness and lethargy once the rush of caffeine and sugar wears off – not the best way to head onto the ice!
If you can, bring healthy snacks along for the players, foods such as trail mixes containing a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, low fat/low sugar cereal bars, and fresh fruit and raw vegetable slices. Water, low fat milk, or fruit juice are best bets for drinks. If you’re stopping at restaurants en route to your destination, eat smart: stay away from rich, spicy, high-fat dishes.
Forego greasy fast food hamburger and chicken joints.
Monitor carbohydrate and protein intake and choose foods accordingly, particularly if the players have a game on the same day of travel. On longer trips, make sure young athletes are getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals, thus boosting their immune systems.
Stick to a mealtime routine.
Especially important on long trips, making sure everyone eats on a regular schedule is critical to maintaining proper gastrointestinal health. The availability of defined, predictable meals also means that the body will have the calories it requires for optimum performance during game time.
Consider food safety.
Travelling across the country or the world exposes athletes to different types of food and drink, and the possibility of food-borne illness. Even the change in tap water from different cities within Canada can cause stomach upset!
- Avoid drinking fountain pop, and bring along bottled water from a trusted source.
- Watch for foods that contain ingredients that may contaminate easily: mayonnaise, dressings, dairy, fish, salad greens.
- Be especially vigilant about ingredients in food if anyone on the team has allergies or intolerances.
Ensure everyone on the team has access to good quality bottled drinking water. If travelling by plane, drinking water while in-flight will decrease the symptoms of dehydration caused by the poor air circulation.
Get the appropriate amount of sleep.
Combined with the physical exertion of game-play, travelling can be exhausting. Ensure players go to bed on schedule and get the appropriate amount of sleep. If changing time zones and jet lag is an issue, try to adjust the body’s internal clock as quickly as possible. Don’t encourage napping unless absolutely necessary to maintain performance.
Exercise (in addition to playing hockey).
If you’re travelling by car or bus, stop regularly and get out and stretch. Walk or run around. If possible, grab some practice sticks and a ball and encourage everyone to do a few passes with a partner.
If journeying by plane, ensure everyone gets up, stretches, and walks around every hour. Once at your destination, send everyone out for some fresh air. If overnight accommodations have a swimming pool, try it out.
Remember, these tips are great for parents, guardians, and coaches to try while travelling, too!