Lessons From A Hamster

by Patti Singer

There’s a YouTube video of a hamster spinning his wheel backward. He’s not running on it, mind you. He’s lying on his back, twirling the wheel with his feet.

What does this have to do with hockey?

Some of our training can make us feel like a hamster on a wheel. That’s particularly true for those of us who do a lot of treadmill work to build endurance. We find ourselves always walking or running, going straight ahead, using the same muscles and maybe zoning out as well.

Here are a couple of ways to mix things up. As always, get your questions answered by a qualified fitness professional and check with qualified medical professionals before starting a new routine. You’re a hockey player, but you’re also getting more mature and you need to play smart about the game and your health.

The first change to your treadmill routine is to walk backward. It’s best to start at a slow speed—1 to 2 mph— and stay on a level grade. You’ll be facing away from the controls on this move. So start the treadmill; remember, slow speed (form is crucial here) and start with your feet on the rails. When you step onto the belt, you want to put one foot directly behind the other. Avoid swinging your hips and C-cutting, like you would when you skate backward. Step straight back, toe to heel. Engage your glutes and think about what you are doing. It may help to put the back of your hand on your butt and try to feel the contraction of the muscle in the middle of your cheek. Again, avoid swaying your hips. You want to feel this in the glutes.

The second way to perk up your treadmill routine is to go sideways and mimic your skating stride. Again, slow speeds and 0-degree grade is best. Get in your skating stance and push off with your outside leg (the one toward the back of the belt). After several strides, turn and face the other way, so you are striding with the other leg. You want to work the inner and outer thighs equally. As you get more comfortable, you can increase the speed, but form is crucial. You want to stay balanced, and you want to think about what you’re doing and feel the muscles working.

These exercises aren’t so much for aerobic endurance as they are for sport-specific training. Depending on how often you’re on the treadmill, working in these variations at least once a week for 10 or 15 minutes total can recruit muscles that tend to get overlooked in a traditional treadmill workout.

Click here, to see the hamster do its unconventional workout or watch it below:


Patti Singer of Rochester, N.Y., writes about health and is a certified personal trainer and owner of FitRight In. She has played on two over-30 teams in the USA Hockey Women’s Nationals and is in her second season as an on-ice official.