Less is more
Alan May always worked out too much. While it helped him establish a legitimate career as one of the most rugged forwards of his generation, he realized much later that some of his energy may have been misdirected.
A rugged kid from Barrhead, Alberta -- a farming and forestry hotbed about 75 miles northwest of Edmonton -- May was raised on the notion that the more you worked out, the better off you were in your chosen profession.
May's chosen profession was hockey and all the throwing around of weights he did in his youth did help him mold a 6-foot, 205-pound frame that earned a shot in the NHL.
Today, however, he realizes he succeeded despite himself and his penchant for working out to excess. Unfortunately, that realization did not come until he was nearly 30 and at the end of his NHL career.
It was then that he met trainer T.R. Goodman by chance on a trip to California and his whole life changed. A summer of workouts with Goodman convinced him that shorter, more-intense workouts with a specific purpose better served his needs than extended sessions with heavy weights and long rides on the stationary bike."Ever since I was a kid, I've always over-trained," said May, now 38. "I always felt like I had to do more than I was doing. But, (with T.R.) it was condensed. I'd never been soaking wet from lifting weights before, but when I was working out with him, I was soaking wet in just 15 minutes. It was such a hard workout and so demanding that it shocked me."
It also opened his eyes to the sins of his past in regards to training for the sport he loves. Today, he is passing on those hard lessons to the youth hockey players of the Dallas area -- May's latest home.
"A lot of what I got from working with T.R., I'm trying to transfer to the kids," says May, a rugged forward who played for Boston, Edmonton, Washington, Dallas and Calgary in a 393-game NHL career. "I'm also trying to educate the parents, who are mostly from the same generation as me, who have never heard of things like imbalances in the body and other things I found out about in working with T.R."
May's company, North American Pro Hockey Development, is May's vehicle for accomplishing that goal. Working with former Dallas Stars defenseman Craig Ludwig, May provides instruction -- both on the ice and off -- to players 17 years of age and under.
Not only does May help develop skills on the ice that will help players get better, but he addresses many of the off-ice issues that can be so integral to a young player's development.
May counsels players, and their parents, on proper nutrition and effective conditioning techniques.
He understands that hockey is much different now, even for young players, than it was when he was making his way out of Barrhead. Today, fitness and conditioning are key cornerstones of any discussion about development of players.
He admits that even by the time he reached the NHL in 1987, strength and conditioning practices were still an uncharted frontier. Much of the work that was done was unsupervised with players going about it at their own pace and with their own techniques. Those events that were supervised were often tailored in such a way that they provided little hockey-specific exercises.
"Back then, you didn't hear about any of the stuff you do now," May said. "I had workouts with some of my teams as a young player that were right out of Muscle & Fitness magazine.
"Now, the strength coaches are all getting on the same page and teaching things that can actually help the players."
May also is on that page. Although he admits he would like to get into coaching again one day -- something he dabbled in at the minor-league level after his retirement -- he is presently happy to settle down and raise his family in the Dallas area. So, he wants to give back to the community, especially when it comes to developing a new generation of hockey players.
"Sure, I would like to get back into coaching," May said. "I loved the NHL. Everyday in the NHL was a great day. Even the bad days were great days.
"But, our business is going really good right now. The amount of positive feedback we get from the parents is phenomenal. It lets us know that we are doing a good job and providing a necessary service. In a way, we are giving back to the game."