“You need a bucket? It might make you feel better,” Zach Parise said with a smile, as I was hunched down on all fours, trying to compose myself.
It was moments after finishing up the third and final circuit-training set at Total Hockey Minnesota in Lakeville, getting "Kirk-ified" with Wild strength and conditioning coach Kirk Olson, Parise and other pro-and college-level hockey players.
I didn’t need the bucket because I stumbled to the restroom before letting loose an evil mixture of the peanut butter toast I had for breakfast and Riptide Rush Gatorade. Still, they congratulated me on making the Bucket List – an honor bestowed upon those who lose their cookies after training at Total Hockey.
“Basically what it is, the lactic acid accumulates in your system, so your system gets acidic,” Olson explained. “The way to neutralize that total body acidity is to throw up. It’s a way that your body tries to neutralize the system when you take your foot off the gas and you’re no longer in work mode.
“It’s like a hockey player when they retire, they go from dealing with those aches and pains on a daily basis so they don’t really notice them, but the day after they retire, everything hurts.”
Everything did hurt.
Why would someone ever subject himself to this kind of physical abuse when they didn’t have to? Well, after watching Wild players workout around the globe in Webisode Nine of “Becoming Wild: Chapter Two” presented by Toyota, I thought, “Why not go George Plimpton (author of “Paper Lion,” check it out) and train with Olson for a day?”
Arriving about 30 minutes early to try and get a few interviews before the workout might not have been the best idea. Olson was putting a group of high school and junior hockey aged players through the paces, and they looked exhausted.
After they finished working out, I spoke with a few of them about the training. I told them why I was here.
“I hope you don’t have to go back to work,” one of them quipped.
“Ha, good luck.”
This didn’t help the confidence.
We started with dynamic stretching. Several kinetic exercises meant to get the blood pumping and the heart rate up, like high-leg kicks, bounding lunges and high knees. I was sweating midway through the warm up.
After loosening up, Olson introduced me and why I was at the workout. One of the players cracked, “Did he sign a waiver?”
This also didn’t help the confidence.
Olson had 16 stations set up ranging from you’re basic jump rope for quick feet to a Monster Truck sized tire toss (anyone who saw the Ryan Lochte Olympic profile will know what this is) for core strength. Since I hadn’t done a lot of these exercises for, well, never – and throw in the fact that this was the summertime training ground for several NHL players – I was in for a treat.
“We’ll have guys training with us in the summer like Derek Stepan (Rangers), Drew Stafford (Sabres), Jordan Schroeder (Canucks organization), Kyle Okposo (Islanders), and Bryce Salvador (Devils),” Olson said.
The first time through the stations was in 25-second intervals with a 10-second rest between exercises. The adrenaline was pumping pretty hard, so I made it through without too many hiccups. Actually, on the first go-round, the most difficult exercise might have been the Sledgehammer Swing station, mainly because swinging a sledgehammer from both sides of your body isn’t a totally natural motion. Swinging the hammer on my left side felt fine, but switching to my weaker side felt like throwing a baseball with the wrong hand. It just felt off.
The second go-round, at 20-seconds per station, was the real killer. All of the muscles that were used in the first circuit were in for a shock during the second. My stomach was torched from doing crossover abdominal crunches with a weighted ball. My arms shook from the fatigue of attempting, unsuccessfully, to rip off pull-ups and dips during the first set. My heart felt like it was on the verge of exploding at every beat, constrained in my chest as if it was in a vice.
My clothes were thoroughly soaked with sweat by the final circuit, as if I had just jumped into a pool. Only 15 seconds at each station, but each second seemed like an eternity. The 10-second rest between each exercise barely left me enough time to get to the next post.
The Wall was hit at a station called the Death March Sprint. In this ordeal, we pushed a grounded 2X10 board with 60 pounds weight calmly resting on it, looking at me with cold distain. After that, every exercise seemed useless. The Rope Swing, which we whipped a large rope with each hand, was done with my now shortened, immobile T-Rex arms. My legs betrayed me at the Bike Sprint; wobbly, I couldn’t get my feet into the stirrups until time was nearly up. Luckily, my last station was an augmented row, which I was already on the floor for, so I didn’t have a very long way to collapse with exhaustion.
After coming back from the restroom, "Kirk-ified" and the newest member of the Bucket List, I sat down next to Wild Prospect Kyle Medvec, who lives in Minnesota and has trained at Total Hockey for the last two summers.
“How was that?” Medvec asked.
“Not too good. How ‘bout you?” I replied wearily.
“Not bad. You should have been here last Thursday.”