Sweating the details
VENICE BEACH, Calif. -- It's not yet 6:30 in the morning on what will prove to be a picture-perfect August day on California's picturesque coastline, yet Chris Chelios is already bathed in sweat, just half-way through his daily workout at Gold's Gym.
Working out six days a week for nearly three months may not be much of a vacation for one of hockey's best defenseman, but it is just another reason why the 41-year-old Chelios is still among the top players in the League. Chelios, a renowned fitness fanatic, would not have it any other way.
A dozen years ago, Chelios started working out with trainer T.R. Goodman, undertaking a radical workout program that he believes made him a better hockey player. Now, in his third decade of professional hockey, Chelios swears by the unorthodox methods Goodman teaches through his Pro Camp business, even though the workouts are as demanding as anything Chelios has ever encountered.
"As long as I keep in shape year-round, I feel like I can still go out there and compete and, hopefully, succeed," said Chelios, slugging back water while recovering from the intense workout. "I basically take only a week or two weeks off the whole year. I always look forward to the season because you can only work this hard for so long."
Make no mistake about it either, Chelios works hard during the season. This is a man who averages more than 26 shifts per game, often against the opposition's best forwards. He logs more than 24 minutes per contest for the always-competitive Detroit Red Wings. Last season, only 25 NHL defensemen -- most far younger -- logged more time per game than Chelios.
While there is no denying that Chelios is blessed with the genetic wherewithal to be an elite athlete and possesses a keen hockey intellect, he harbors no illusions that he is a purely self-made man. He bestows a good portion of the credit at the feet of Goodman -- his quiet, no-nonsense personal trainer.
"A lot of guys have been exposed to working out before they come here, but my whole objective is to push guys to the limit and create new limits for them," Goodman explains modestly when asked about the devotion his acolytes reserve for him.
But, according to Chelios, often reticent himself, Goodman's success is not that simple. And his contributions to the players he tutors go far beyond simply making their bodies more efficient."At the time I started, this just happened to be the newest method out there and it worked really well for me," explained Chelios, who heard about Goodman's work through former NHLer Alan May. ''I'm sure down the line there will be another new method that guys will swear by, but this works for me. I've been doing it for 12 years now. I really believe that if it wasn't for this program, I wouldn't still be in the League."
Not only is Chelios still in the League, but he is a physical marvel in a league populated with some of the best-conditioned athletes in the world today. At Pro Camp, he routinely outworks every other athlete there, some 20 years his junior.
That fact alone says much about Chelios, but even more about the Pro Camp philosophy. More than 25 NHL players currently spend at least a part of their summer working under Goodman's watchful eye. Agent Pat Brisson, who represents some of the sports biggest superstars, swears by Goodman's methods. He refers many of his clients to the camp, some while they are still playing junior hockey.
"T.R. seems to know where we are at all times physically and he knows what we need to improve on," says Shawn Horcoff, an up-and-coming star for the Edmonton Oilers. "He works with us to make those improvements happen."
May, who made his name with the Washington Capitals and was one of Goodman's first clients, is even more straight-forward in his assessment of Goodman.
"He's got a conviction about what he is doing," says May. "He's not just collecting your money. He believes in what he is doing and wants you to get better.
"If you weren't doing what he asked, he'd pick you up and throw you out of the gym because he didn't want to just go through the motions. He's 24 hours a day and all he thinks about is what he does and how to make you better. He looks at you and figures out how he can fix you. It's just amazing."
Goodman's program is all-inclusive. While stressing physical improvement, Goodman also highlights mental development and provides nutritional advice. In essence, Goodman's camp is a one-stop shop for athletic improvement.
Goodman provides tangible results despite using methods that have not been embraced by the majority of strength and conditioning coaches. He preaches a three-phase workout for the summer, a training regimen that starts soon after the NHL season is over and ends just days before the opening of the following season's training camp.