This is Winter Classic week here in Pittsburgh….and for anyone watching the NHL!

The City is a-buzz with more than 70 events leading up to the outdoor extravaganza.  I hope it snows….can you imaging watching the best hockey players in the world outdoors in the snow on Heinz Field….Magic!

I aways marvel at the amazing feats of speed, endurance and mental fortitude I witness watching hockey….and all while gliding across a near frictionless surface on tiny blades. Wow!   The human body is a spectacular machine and capable of so much more than we normally ask of it.   The athletes inspired me to hit the road harder,  and stay in the gym a little longer and watch what I am eating.

Apparently I am not alone.  My Orthopaedic office is now filled with patients “Wow’ed by Winter Champions” who have a case of the terrible too’s.   Too much, too often, too soon!   They come in wanting to know how to treat their new-found set of aches, now to prepare for exercise better and avoid injury and what they should eat to stay on track.

How does a winter sports champion maximize performance and minimize injury?

To answer that question for you I enlisted the advice of Winter champion Peter Taglianetti.  As an  11-year professional hockey defenseman, 2-time Stanley Cup champion and winter fitness expert, Tag (as his fans call him) has great advice on how beginners can “wow” themselves.

Tag’s 3 M’s:

  1. Make a plan.  Reaching for gold from the couch can be overwhelming so breakdown complex tasks into smaller goals.  Here are some ways to get started:
    1. Think about what you want to accomplish in the next 6 or 12 weeks:   What distance, what race or what dress size (although he is quick to point out that health is not about just looking good but about being strong ).
    2. See your doctor and get permission- even champions get a physical before the season
    3. For the next 6-12 weeks make exercise your priority.  This gives you a chance to establish a routine.
    4. Tell everyone what your goal is.  Accountability will help keep you on track.
    5. Reward yourself.  Feeling great is a reward in itself but a special treat can add motivation.
    6. Write down a fitness plan that includes heart pounding, tendon stretching and muscle building work.

2.       Make more time for muscles.  When you look at a winter champion, they all have strong anti-gravity muscles:   legs, butts and cores.  These same muscle groups are vital for beginners as they build stamina in daily life and prevent injuries.  In addition, these big muscles burn more calories and can help change your body composition from mostly fat to mostly muscle.

An easy exercise you can do anywhere to build your legs, butt and core all at one time is a wall squat with an exercise ball.

  1.  Place an exercise ball against any wall (home, office, playground, gym) and stand with your low back against it with your feet shoulder width apart.  Pull your belly button back against your spine to engage your core.
  2. While keeping your core engaged, slowly slide your body down the ball until your knees are bent about 60 decrees.
  3. Hold this for as long as you can or 2 minutes and relax.  Repeat until you are fatigued.

3.       Modify your diet.  When it comes to diet, even small changes can mean a lot.  Nutrition for sports is much more than simple calorie counting.  Although too much for this blog space, a few tips for eating like a champion include: 

  1. Hydrate- Do NOT trust your thirst. By the time you feel thirsty you are dehydrated.  For optimal muscle function and metabolism drink before, during and after you exercise.
  2. Cut out fried food.  That simple.
  3. Choose any veggie, dark green, orange, red or yellow and make it fresh.
  4. Protein is important for building muscle and fueling exercise.  Fish, meat, eggs and daily are complete sources of protein.