|NHL.com: Impact Magazine|
|Nothing slips the steely gaze of trainer T.R. Goodman, who has been working to make players more physically fit for the rigors of NHL play for more than a decade.|
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.
|Edmonton's Shawn Horcoff has foregone summer vacatIons for the last four years to take part in Goodman's workouts. He is starting to challeng Chris Chelios for the circuit-training title.|
"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.
|During Goodman's circuit-training workouts, he splits the players into small groups for the hour-long workouts. This allows him to provide more individual attention, as well as foster a sense of competition among his clients.|
"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.
|Goodman, shown here with Chris Simon of the New York Rangers, uses a variety of training methods to establish his goal of preparing the body to absorb as much punishment as possible during a long NHL season.|
Goodman's cycle begins with a stage to remove and repair trauma from the body caused by the previous season, as well as strengthen the internal core of muscles and increase muscular endurance. That is followed by a second stage that stresses muscular growth.
Neither of those stages are that far removed from what most strength and conditioning coaches preach, although Goodman does go about those two phases in ways markedly different from more traditional fitness gurus. Instead it is the closing cycle -- his circuit-training routine -- that travels a bold new path. Designed to increase a player's explosiveness and endurance, Goodman's circuit training combines a series of polymetric exercises into a non-stop 60-minute workout.
It is not, however, the circuit-training class offered at the local gym designed to burn unwanted calories. It is a stern cardiovascular test that has humbled world-class athletes.
It is this workout that had Chelios sweating so early on a Wednesday morning. It is the same workout that made fellow defenseman Mathieu Schneider throw up when he first started doing it.
"The circuit training, which we finish the program with, is really tough," said Horcoff, just minutes after his 8 a.m. workout ended. "It's an hour long and your heart rate is up there -- in the 170 range. But, it's as much mental as physical there when you are doing that stuff. But, then it kicks in what we are doing out here every day at 7 or 8 a.m. each morning of the summer. You have to believe in what T.R. is doing and believe that it will pay off."
|Detroit defenseman Mathieu Schnieder, pictured working with a step board, struggled the first few times he performed the circuit-training routine. Today, he credits the program with extending his career.|
And despite the occasional doubt expressed by a fatigued player, there is indeed a method to Goodman's madness. He is not the closet sadist many clients have suggested in gasping breaths as they struggle to complete one of his workouts.
Goodman has a hockey background, having played for Trinity College, a small liberal arts school in Hartford, Conn. He understands the hockey player and designs his program to stress hockey-related activities.
But, he admits that it is not always an easy sell to convince the players that the strenuous circuit-training sessions -- multiple simple exercises like thrusts, rope jumping, pushups and one-arm rows -- are the solution. It is especially difficult when the players have been raised with a belief that heavy weight work is the ultimate - and perhaps only -- salvation for a pro athlete.
"I still get it from players, even now, questioning me about the circuit training," admits Goodman. "It's an on-going process to educate the guys as to what you are trying to accomplish. When guys don't do something I ask, I used to get offended, but now I understand that it's because the guy doesn't understand why you are asking them to do that specific exercise. You have to get that player to understand how it all works together."
Goodman explained his philosophy as he watched four clients -- Schneider, Blake, Chris Simon of the New York Rangers and Boston's Glen Murray -- struggle through that day's circuit. Each was coated in sweat, shirts clinging to their heaving chests as they moved from exercise to exercise.
"Each exercise has a critical effect on the body," says Goodman as the players dropped their jump ropes and moved onto to one-legged lunges. "So, it does matter what order they go in. It's a little like chemistry in that way, you have to understand how the order of exercises are going to effect the body when they are put together in a certain way. Your body has a conditioning memory and we are working on that with these exercises.
"When they go to their respective training camps, that memory is already there and they just have to work to maintain it instead of expending energy to develop it."
Goodman watches everything around him with the steely gaze of a chemistry professor, refusing to peel his eyes off the action in front of him as he answers questions. Occasionally, he stops in mid-sentence of the discourse of his philosophy to offer his charges a word of encouragement or a tip on technique. Throughout the hour of work, he never allows the players to lose concentration, demanding they perform each movement correctly each time to help instill mental toughness and proper work habits.
|Goodman's circuit-training workouts usually take place in an outdoor enclosure adjacent to Gold's Gym. The players work out early in the morning to beat the Southern California sun.|
"See how they change from one exercise to the next?" Goodman asks, excitement briefly invading his usually placid demeanor. "See their temperament and the lack of wasted movement? It's the same for them in a game situation. That is what we are trying to develop here. The same things you see on the ice are the things you see from the guys here -- how they handle stress and deal with fatigue. They kind of parallel each other."
As each player finished his workout that Wednesday, a heavy sigh was followed by a smile -- and maybe a fist pump or a high five. Each realizing that the past hour of punishment was just another building block of what they believe will be a successful season.
"The first summer you do this program you don't feel like your accomplishing much," admitted Blake. "Then when you are done and you go to training camp you can really feel the difference and you know that it has paid off. That gets you excited to come back."
And, it is just the thing that gets these players through a workout on a beautiful summer day when hockey is the furthest thing from almost everyone else's mind.