Scoring champion, MVP, captain and – fitness fanatic?
Yes, Sidney Crosby is certainly all of those.
The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar continues to pile on-ice achievements. However, many people don’t know what the 20-year-old does off the ice to make those accomplishments possible.
Well, readers of Men’s Fitness will find out what the young hockey prodigy does to prepare his body for the rigors of a grueling NHL season when the February issue hits newsstands Monday.
Crosby, who is featured on the cover, reveals the process he went through to achieve optimal fitness. His story appealed to the Men’s Fitness, one of the nation’s premier health and fitness magazines.
“When I arrived, one of the things I wanted to try to establish is that Men’s Fitness would be the place for men who exemplify the kind of peak performance that our men strive for,” said Roy S. Johnson, Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Fitness. “Fitness is beyond looking good – it’s about building your body in a way that allows you to achieve peak performance in every aspect of your life. Who better to emulate that than some of the best athletes in all of sports, as well as celebrities who use their bodies to express themselves in film and television that allow them to set a standard?
“When you hear that criteria, Sidney is clearly not only one of the most-fit athletes out there, but someone who exemplifies greatness and excellence and someone who takes care of his body in such a way that perhaps our readers can not only learn from him, but strive to be as good as he is in whatever they do.”
Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar, who is also featured in the magazine article, is happy to see Crosby gain recognition for his hard work off the ice.
“Sid is the poster boy for the Penguins and for the NHL. For him to be on a magazine such as that is a pretty good honor. When you look at him on the cover, you can see that he worked hard through the summer. It’s a good thing for him,” he said. “He realizes that, in order to compete at this level in the NHL, he has to be consistent and do the right things to stay strong and healthy. He’s doing exactly that.”
Crosby remains totally committed to achieving optimal fitness, even though he takes it “easy” in the winter, compared to the summer.
“During the season, my fitness program isn’t too much, that’s for sure. I really focus on the on-ice stuff more than anything off the ice. It’s more just staying loose and flexible and things like that,” he said. “My summers are committed to working out, basically I don’t skate that much at all. It’s important to make sure you’re in good shape. When you come to training camp, you have to be ready. You can’t take two weeks to get in shape – you have to be in shape. Off-ice work is a big part of that.”
And, all-year fitness has become a huge part of the NHL as well as other sports.
“It’s not only an all-year thing, but it’s become a science. The thing I have learned during my tenure here and speaking with guys like LaDainian Tomlinson and Reggie Bush and Tiger Woods is that it’s not just about being in the weight room and getting big – it’s about flexibility and balance and nutrition,” Johnson said. “That’s one of the message we try to convey; being fit is not just about going to the gym. It’s about watching what you eat and when you eat it and what vitamins and other supplements you might take to help you achieve the peak physical condition you want to reach.”
Since there is a huge emphasis on overall fitness, Crosby accepts that it is part of what he needs to do to succeed.
“Exactly. With the commitment from everyone now, it’s not like the guys who train hard in the summer are going to gain a huge edge because everyone does it now. You gain the edge and try to push yourself to be better and increase your speed or strength or whatever it is, but that’s only probably to keep up,” he said. “You’re not going to gain as much of an edge as maybe you might have 10 years ago when not everyone probably trained the same way. It’s definitely important, especially being young and with all the young guys we have, we might have a few more years to gain more speed or gain that strength, so you have to make sure you do that.”
That means summers aren’t just dedicated to vacations for Crosby, who works with Andy O’Brien – now the Florida Panthers strength and conditioning coach. The two met while Crosby was playing junior hockey in Rimouski and have continued to work together every offseason.
“He’s been great to me. Basically he taught me how to run. I was awful and I still am awful, but I have come a long way,” Crosby said with a laugh. “He’s helped me a lot to control certain parts of my body and use that power and strength to my advantage.
“Every day we are together in the summer. He definitely makes my summers tough. Sometimes, I think my summers might be harder than my winters. It’s a big commitment, but it’s something that pays off and it’s worth it, for sure. Some guys choose to skate more, but I think I benefit more from doing things off the ice and kind of giving the muscles I use for skating a break.
“I have always taken a lot of pride in being a hard worker, whether that’s on or off the ice and just being my best. I know that if I can do those things off the ice and they are going to help me be a better player, then I am willing to do that. Some guys are more natural and can maybe go summers without doing a whole lot and still improve from just being on the ice and that’s fine, too. Everyone has their own way. But, for me, even mentally just being off the ice is a bit of a different challenge in knowing every day you’re putting yourself through something difficult. When you get tired during the season, you know you’ve been through it before, so mentally you kind of gain a little out of it, too.”
Crosby’s teammates gained some amusement out of his image on the cover of the magazine decked out in a form-fitting workout shirt and hockey pants.
“It’s nice when they can airbrush pretty much anything,” Penguins winger Colby Armstrong, one of Crosby’s closest friends, said with a laugh. “I don’t to get to take really sweet pictures like that for a lot of covers. So, I just get generic pictures taken at Wal-Mart and get them developed there. I don’t look so hot. It must be nice to get them like his. He probably did about 100 pushups and ate a little turtle soup before that photo shoot.
“That’s pretty cool for him to be on the cover. I am kind of jealous about it. I’d be on the cover of Men’s Fast Food – with no shirt on.”
Defenseman Ryan Whitney gave Crosby a hard time about the cover, also.
“He denies it was airbrushed. He said they taught him how to flex while the pictures were being taken. He must have done something – maybe some bench pressing just to make his pecs look big. He’s a big kid, but he must have been flexing a little,” he said. “They did a good job with the lighting and stuff like that. I still say his skin look very, very clear for the front of the magazine,” he said.
The good-hearted ribbing is all done in fun.
“What fun would it be if we didn’t give him a hard time about it? We all kind of live through the stuff he does, so it’s kind of fun,” Armstrong said with a laugh. “He is here all the time. Everyone knows he’s always doing stuff behind the scenes. So, we try to lighten it up for him a bit by bugging him about it or cracking a joke about it. I think it maybe makes things a little easier for him. If not, oh well, sorry buddy.”
That sort of response is nothing unusual for Crosby.
“It hasn’t been too bad. It’s pretty good, though. You always expect that,” he said with a laugh. “That’s just kind of accepted that that is the way it’s going to be if you’re on any magazine or any article – you expect it to be posted in the room the next day. It hasn’t been any different with that.”
On a serious note, though, Crosby’s teammates know just how dedicated he is to the game.
“It’s cool for him to be on the cover,” Whitney said. “He works out a ton and takes it very seriously. It’s great for other people to see how much fitness is a part of his daily life.”