Over the last two-and-a-half weeks, the eight winners of the MET-Rx Skate with the Greats contest have participated in a four-part off-ice training session with New York Islanders Strength and Conditioning Coach Jesse Demers at Iceworks in Syosset.
“I’m taking them through routines that we go through with our players," Demers said. "I’m trying to team them about the dynamic warmup, hip activation series, core strengthening, but also condition them at the same time so that they get most out of our time together. This way, when they go to play, they feel like they’ve accomplished something and t get to feel like they’ve experienced what it’s like to be a professional athlete.”
In that time, they've all learned about proper exercise techniques as well as how to target core muscle groups, which help a hockey player succeed at the professional level – but can also be extremely beneficial to a casual athlete. Russell Feigenbaum, 41, from Nesconset, is just one contest winner who said that he has learned a lot from working with Demers.
“I feel that Jesse’s program has been very beneficial,” Feigenbaum said. “As a recreational athlete, it’s great to have a program that works your entire body in under an hour. Since the exercises are done with very little rest, you are getting in a great cardio workout. The workouts were very challenging and it beats getting on a treadmill.”
But Demers’ workouts have done more than just provide a quick workout. He makes sure to target specific muscle groups with different kinds of exercises that help to maximize the output each player puts on the ice.
Whether Demers is using an exercise to strengthen a player’s shot by working out his back and shoulder muscles or maximizing a player’s acceleration by strengthening the lower body, Demers has a variety of different exercises to benefit the individual athlete.
“The exercises within the routine focus on both agility and coordination,” Feigenbaum said. “Jesse is constantly reminding us to “get athletic” with our form, to incorporate our entire body in the exercise. The routines are also designed to simulate a 60-second shift in hockey. We’ll do three different exercises for 20 seconds each, with a short rest and then repeat.”
And while Demers has worked with all the contest winners together, he’s been able to adapt the workouts to each individual’s fitness level and unique exercise needs. Adam Kandell, 28, from Middle Island, thought his athletic career was over because he had back surgery four years ago.
“Even though I am not an athlete anymore because of a back surgery I had four years ago, I realized there are a lot of different exercises I can do to strengthen my body to avoid future injuries,” Kandell said.
Matt Reece, 23, from Massapequa Park, said he’s already noticed improvements in his strength.
“His program has been beneficial,” Reece said. “I can already feel parts of my body becoming stronger. When we finish the workout, that feeling of being tired and sore in muscles that are rarely used on a regular basis is a great feeling. I have not had that feeling since high school.”
Each contest winner has learned a lot about the training it takes to be a professional athlete, but Feigenbaum said he thinks the best part of each workout is the feedback that Demers provides.
“Throughout each session, he’s constantly interacting with us,” Feigenbaum said. “He demonstrates each new exercise and then he watches us to make sure we are using the proper technique and form. After we’ve finished each workout, Jesse has stayed around and talked to us about the team.”
That kind of energy and enthusiasm is exactly the right kind of attitude these guys should have.
According to Demers, "with a little bit of teaching and consistency the guys improve from week one to week four.”
He continued, “A lot of those guys play themselves whether it’s deck hockey, roller hockey or ice hockey in men’s leagues. A lot of them play, they just haven’t incorporated training into their program. The little things, on the most basic level, a lot of them liked what they’ve learned. A lot of them show progress and any time that people see results, you’ll see people gain a little more interest and take some back into their own routine.”
A two-and-a-half week training program with Demers may not get the MET-Rx Skate with the Greats contest winners ready to play a real game in the National Hockey League, but he’s definitely be able to help each athlete prepare themselves for a game against Islanders legends. The game will be held at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday March 6, following the Islanders game versus the New Jersey Devils.
“This has been an amazing experience so far,” Kandell said. “I’m looking forward to the game and having the best experience of my life that will create memories that will last a lifetime.”