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When is the Right Time?

Off ice training is more popular than it has ever been, and for good reason. It can have a significant positive impact on your hockey game.

But when is the right time to start?

I often get asked by parents, “What is the correct age to start lifting weights?” or “What are the ideal workouts my kid’s off season?” It seems like every time you turn around another self-proclaimed expert is advising something or there is always a guy “who knows a guy” who is spreading some self-serving information that will fill his next camp. It can be tough to navigate and find the information that you need, so here are some tips and information that will help give parents some direction and dispel the rumours and misinformation.

There is NO magic age as to when athletes are ready to work out. All kids develop at their own pace. Because of this, we have both an athlete’s chronological age (actual age) and his/her training age. The training age is determined by the athlete’s experience in the gym and playing sports.

For example, we have two clients come into the gym. Client No. 1 is 14-years-old and has been playing sports since he was five and had two previous years of experience in a gym training with his team during the season. Client No. 2 is 19 and has very limited experience with sports and has never been in a gym. You can see that despite the fact client No. 2 is technically older, he would not be ready to lift weights yet. He would have to start at bodyweight progressions and work his way up while client No. 1 might be able to externally load some exercises with weight despite being, chronologically, five years younger.

Speaking of weight, there is also a concern regarding when young athletes should start lifting. Rumours about having to wait until bones are finished growing are pretty common. Again, the age at which an athlete starts weight training is linked to his/her training age. There are bones in the human body such as the scapulae (shoulder blade) and collar bone that are not done developing until your early 20s. You are not going to have athletes wait until they are 25-years-old before they start lifting weights.

As long as the athlete is coached and has progressed properly through the fundamentals then risk of injury is very slim. Truth is, the initial loads for athletes are probably the same or even lighter than other things they already carry. The young athlete performing a perfect squat with a 20-pound weight while he is aware of his form and technique, poses less risk for injury than that same athlete slinging his 30-pound hockey bag over his shoulder and walking with no attention to form or technique.

Another common question I hear all the time is, “What is the best thing for my kid to be doing in the off season?” For young athletes (ages 7-12) my answer might surprise you. The best thing to do is go play another sport.

These are prime years for the development of many athletic attributes that will form a youngster’s athletic foundation. Hand-eye co-ordination, re-action time, balance, proprioception (the awareness of his/her body in space) are all aspects which, when developed, improve athletic performance and are all prime for development at these ages.

There are drills you can do in the gym to better these attributes for sure and if hockey is the only path that the kid wants to take then it can be done. But even better, I would argue, is get out there and play other sports. All those athletic attributes will be developed through playing different sports and the kids will experience the benefit of both competition and of being part of a different team. Plus all the other great values that sport teaches us!

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen, Focus Fitness Manager & Head Strength Coach

Originally published in Game On Magazine

The Press Box Restaurant, a year-round draw

Press Box Restaurant

Restaurants are always trying to find ways to attract more customers but for The Press Box Restaurant and Sports Bar, located on the second floor at the Bell MTS Iceplex, it’s the building they’re in that usually does the drawing for them.

Though you won’t typically find people going to The Press Box simply to go out for dinner, it’s the hot spot to grab a bite for anyone watching or playing hockey at the Iceplex. When there is a hockey tournament in the building, head chef Leonard Church says it doesn’t take long for the restaurant to fill up.

“During one tournament, we had people waiting at the door to get in,” said Church, who was formerly a chef at the Hilton, and served as the head chef for the Manitoba Winter Games in Thompson this year.

Though the restaurant is a convenient spot for players and fans alike to fuel up, The Press Box’s largest area of service is provided as a caterer. On top of catering for the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose players at the Iceplex, they feed the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy, Camp Manitou, and hockey teams after their games, whether in the restaurant or to-go.

“Every time is busy time,” said Church. “It just turns from one thing to another. In the summer we have camps in here, with around 250 kids a day. Then we get into hockey season with the Jets doing training camp, so then we have 120 guys a day for a couple meals. Then the restaurant opens up again in September, and we’re busy with that.”

With seating for more than 300, a full-service bar, and the ability to close off the restaurant for a more intimate setting, The Press Box offers an accommodating and versatile space for meetings and special events, and also caters to many functions in all areas of the city

“Most of the events we host are annual events,” said Jessica Rosenbaum, Event and Marketing Coordinator for the Bell MTS Iceplex. “Some events are one-offs, but tournaments are typically annual, so we know what to expect.”

Both Church and Rosenbaum noted that the quality service, flexible staff and accommodating catering menu keep groups coming back year after year.

“Word of mouth travels fast,” said Church. “Especially within the hockey community. Between the events and patrons at the Iceplex and off-site catering, we’re always busy.”

For team meals, snacks and appies while watching the game on one of the big screens, or a cold beverage, The Press Box Restaurant is open 5 – 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, visit:

It’s Not Always How Much but How Well

As another off-season begins, it’s an exciting time to grow both physically and mentally in order to put yourself in a better position for the next season.

Because of this excitement it can sometimes be easy to think more is better. In fact, athletes will bury themselves under mountains of work and grind through marathon sessions in the gym and on the ice only to feel beat up and run down by the time they start training camp.

This is problematic considering we want the exact opposite to be true. We want to feel like we are peaking at the start of camp. Yes, we want to work hard in the off-season, but we also want to work intelligently. Every exercise and movement should have a purpose: To further develop our athletic attributes.

There is a misconception that if you don’t leave the gym half dead, dragging yourself home, it means you didn’t work hard enough or make constructive use of your time. Some trainers and strength coaches buy into this philosophy just to make their clients happy. When compounded over multiple off-seasons this training style quickly becomes counterproductive and leaves many broken-down, tired athletes in its wake.

Always remember this: Off season training should be about quality over quantity.

The hockey season is already a grind and the off season is already very short. We want to actively recover from the rigours of the season and progress into the next year. This can be done at the same time with well thought-out, smart programming.

My suggestion is to take a little time off, away from the ice – and away from skating — at the beginning of the off-season with more focus on mobility and base movements. This will give your body some time to recover while we put it in a position to be able to train again at a high quality level. We call this phase the primer phase as its priming our body to be able to train at the level we want. Here’s a good primer program:

Mobility: A high frequency sport like hockey has many repetitive movements that cause tightness and imbalances. These should be addressed through mobility work. We want to be able to move without restriction in order to get the most out of our training.

Aerobic: You need a proper aerobic base to be able to train, even in the weight room when we’re doing strength work. If we can’t recover between sets by having an efficient aerobic system, we are entering each set at a deficit and not getting the most out of it or hitting our full potential.

Base Strength Movements: A proper execution of the five basic movements (push, pull, hinge, squat, and carry) should be introduced at the appropriate progressions. This is our foundation. You cannot build an athlete on a poor foundation. It is only a matter of time before it becomes exposed and things fall apart. Tempo training should also be worked in with special attention to the eccentric loading of these movements in order to help with regaining strength — and strengthening tendons to get them ready for the intense strength and power work to follow in the training progressions.

Accessory Work: Smart accessory work can directly help to correct imbalances, improve mobility, aid in injury prevention and will complement the basic movements. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, just simple and well thought out. Hockey is a contact sport with lots of shoulder injuries so rotator cuff work should be programmed in as it helps with injury prevention, shooting, and assisting in the basic movements. This is an example of something simple, but effective.

Remember off season training is about quality not quantity. It should have you feeling at your best when camp starts. When it comes to training it’s not always about how much but rather how well. Enjoy your off season, work hard, and if you need help come see us.

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen, Focus Fitness Manager & Head Strength Coach

Originally published in Game On Magazine

Enjoy the Process

It is a simple message but you see it get lost in the shuffle more and more. Athletes and parents often get distracted or so caught up in “making it” that they lose focus on what’s important. The most important part of your child’s development in their sport is that they are enjoying the process. They enjoy going to the rink, going to the gym, seeing their teammates, getting better, playing a game they love. This is so important because there is a really strong chance that your child will not make the NHL. And guess what? That is ok! Less than 1% of hockey players will realize a dream of playing in the NHL. Does that mean that they shouldn’t dream about making it and work hard to get there? Absolutely not! They definitely should! And they should pursue it with all their heart as long as it is their choice and they are enjoying it every step of the way. The pressure of the selection process starts absurdly young. I’ve seen parents and kids devastated that they did not get drafted or selected or noticed at ages in their early to mid-teens. Tons of kids at this age are still developing, all of them at their own speed. We have worked with countless athletes that would be described as late bloomers who were passed over multiple times but now play at NCAA Division 1 schools or different levels of pro hockey. They realized it was not the end of the world, they focused on what they could control, worked hard and enjoyed the process of training in the gym and on the ice, getting better every day and the rest took care of itself. We also have a number of professional hockey players who play in other pro leagues around the world and absolutely love it. There are plenty of options out there for those who focus on and enjoy the process of becoming better. The lessons taught in training far exceed their use solely in the sport as well. Valuable life skills like dedication, teamwork, commitment, selflessness, leadership, and perseverance are taught through the process of training. These skills will benefit an athlete in any endeavour they ever choose to pursue in their lives. The relationships and bonds formed through training, working hard and getting better with other people are some of the strongest friendships that a person will ever develop in their lifetime. Enjoy the process, love the process, be thankful for the opportunity to get better and you will have a level of success that will have a positive impact on your life.

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment


AJ Zeglen

Focus Athletes Medal in Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games

The Olympics in South Korea were pretty special for Canada. Our country set a Canadian Olympic record for most medals ever won at a Winter Olympics with 11 gold, 8 silver and 10 bronze for a total of 29.

This was especially exciting for us at Focus Fitness as we had two athletes contribute directly to the medal count with Kaitlyn Lawes, gold medal in mixed doubles curling and Quinton Howden, bronze medal in men’s ice hockey. We also had Focus Fitness alumni Bailey Bram, Brigette Lacquette and Jocelyne Larocque all take home sliver in women’s ice hockey as well as Focus Fitness alumnus Brooks Macek take home silver in men’s ice hockey.

To even know six people who have competed at the Olympics is pretty amazing but to have all those six athletes come through your programming at your facility at various points of their development is really something special and something we take a great deal of pride in. Here is a little about our two Olympic medal winners that currently give pour their heart and soul into their training at Focus Fitness.

Kaitlyn has been at Focus for ten years now working closely with trainer and therapist Melissa Skibinski. I’m not sure there could be a better fit for the two of them. They both expect the best out of each other and they both deliver, their list of accomplishments since they started working together is nothing short of amazing. I believe Kaitlyn’s approach to training is one of the things that has separated her from the field and helped her reach the top of her sport. Her work ethic in the gym rivals that of any athlete we have ever had in Focus. She trains hard. Period. We all look forward to continue to help and support Kaitlyn anyway we can as she continues her career. She has been a part of Focus for so many years now she in part of the family and when she does well I think we all feel extremely proud of her success.

Quinton Howden has been a part of the Focus family for over 6 years now. He played multiple seasons with our home organizations the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose before going to the KHL. Not only is his work ethic on the ice and in the gym top level, he is also one of the best people you will meet. Honest, sincere, hardworking, stand up human being. The type of person you want around your facility and part of your programs because he makes every around him better. I have worked personally with Quinton over the years and was really proud and excited for him to be named to Canada’s Olympic team. Being a part of the Canadian team is an accomplishment in itself, but doing it with Canada’s flag ship sport of hockey is the icing on the cake. We all took great pride seeing Quinton being named to the team and then again watching him win a bronze medal.

This is why we do what we do.