Calorie Burner: The Hockey Workout

Hannah Wallace hits the ice at Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex and burns major calories with her hockey workout.

By Megan McDonald January 15, 2013

By Hannah Wallace

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You get a workout fighting for the puck.

I’ll be enjoying one of my favorite kinds of fitness—ice hockey—in Ellenton this weekend, as our women’s team, the Gulfcoast Ms Conduct, hosts a tournament for the Florida Women’s Hockey League at Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex. Here’s a breakdown of the weekend-long workout.

Time factor: We’ll play four games between Friday night and Sunday morning. Games are three 12-minute periods, stop-time—which means the clock stops between whistles, so every time you have to skate back down the ice for a faceoff or pick yourself up after the goalie covers the puck and a defenseman clocks you, that’s all “bonus” exercise. With warm-ups and between-period breaks, it comes out to about 50 to 55 minutes on the ice.

Weightlifting: Aside from the helmet, which is equipped with a weighty metal facemask or “cage,” each individual piece of equipment feels pretty light—that’s shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, padded pants, jockstrap (sometimes called a “jill” for women), shin pads and skates. But altogether, the gear starts at at least 10 lbs. and gets incrementally heavier through the weekend with the accumulation of sweat and water (from the ice you gather every time you fall down and skid. And sometimes from your teammates squirting you with water bottles). By our third game, my gear will weigh me down to the tune of about 20 lbs. Our team’s goalie, who might weigh 100 lbs. total, is probably increasing her body weight by another 25 percent with gear on—and goalies are basically doing squats the entire game.

Warm-up: To keep games on schedule, we’re only given 3 minutes on the ice to warm-up before each match-up. So in the locker room, before I get all my gear on, I like to loosen up my muscles and get my heart rate (and a little sweat) going by knocking a tennis ball around with my hockey stick and/or juggling a size-three soccer ball. (The latter also doubles as a confidence-building holdover from a sport in which I am way more experienced.)

Interval exercise: Aside from the goalie, all the players are substituting constantly. You alternate between a minute of hard skating, stopping and starting, and a minute on the bench. (Well, theoretically: To our coaches’ frustration, we tend to stretch our shifts out a little longer—1:30 or so; NHLers aim for 35- to 45-second shifts, but, let’s face it, they’re skating way harder that we are.)

Calorie-burning: I’ve worn a heart-rate monitor at hockey practice before and burned 900 calories in an hour and a half. Games are a little different, but I can count on burning about 500 calories a game. ( has a neat calculator that seems to agree with me. )

Nutrition: At the advice of Kaizen dietician Patricia King as well as the performance institute folks over at IMG (read more about both in my January feature, "Upping My Game"), I’m bringing Gatorade’s protein-heavy Recovery shakes into the locker room to have immediately after each game—along with lots of water and some G2. (Beer also factors a bit into tournament weekends, which only makes the rehydration doubly important.) I haven’t been “carb loading,” per se, but I’ve let myself off the hook for some pasta-heavy dishes this week.

Soreness: Thanks to the forward-leaning skate posture and the repetition of picking up and putting down my legs while wearing skates that are, of course, heavier than my usual footwear, the first thing I’ll notice on Monday morning is my hip flexors and quads, followed shortly by my back. My arms will also be a little sore, most likely from the push-up-like motion of getting up off the ice. And if I happen to get dumped on my backside, I’ll have a little whiplash, too.

To see the skating up close, FWHL teams will be playing at Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. (Spectators are free.) “Your hometown Ms Conduct,” as we like to call ourselves, will be on the ice at 6:30 Friday, and 9:15 and 2:15 Saturday (fourth game TBD).

Read Hannah Wallace's "Upping My Game," chock-full of tips and tricks from local experts about improving your sports performance, in our January issue.

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