Warming Up Your Winter
Jim grew up in the South. His dad was a coach, so he grew up with baseball, football, and basketball experiences. In high school, he developed a long-distance running habit as well. He did lots of sports–all of which seemed to depend upon sunshine, warm temperature, and generally good weather.
Because of his experience and particular sports orientation, Jim also developed a genuine dislike for winter. This was fine until Jim’s family moved to the Midwest.
To his surprise, Jim found the seasonal changes interesting and made a promise to himself to develop a winter sports interest.
After considering a myriad of possibilities, Jim recognized that three winter sports stood out in terms of popularity. They were ice hockey, ice skating, and cross-country skiing. So he decided to analyze each one with respect to its physical fitness demands and benefits, its psychological rewards, and its practical characteristics.
Looking at Fitness Demands
In terms of physical fitness, Jim found that ice hockey and cross-country skiing were more demanding than ice skating, unless you were planning to speed skate like Bonnie Blair. More specifically, ice hockey often requires a player to sprint to get back on defense or to find a clear shot at the goal. This means that a hockey player needs not only endurance (aerobic capacity), but also muscular power (strength).
Cross-country skiing, on the other hand, is predominantly an endurance sport, so it is very demanding on a participant’s aerobic capacity. And although there are times when a cross-country skier must exhibit strength and power, it’s not in the same league as hockey in this regard.
In comparison, ice skating requires much less aerobic capacity or muscular strength/ power than either hockey or cross-country skiing. But in this sport, a participant develops a sense of body control. All three of these sports benefit from a little preseason conditioning on the track. Furthermore, since all three cause a participant’s muscles to shorten or tighten, it’s important to stretch before the opening bell.
The psychological characteristics of these three activities also vary. Hockey, for instance, is a competitive, even combative, team sport that is based on territorial conquest. People who play hockey generally love to compete. Personally, Jim found hockey players to be similar to football players.
Cross-country skiing is self-competitive, but not combative. When participating, cross-country skiers are much more likely to enjoy a quiet glide through the woods on a snowy evening. Personally, Jim found cross-country skiers more like cross-country runners or marathoners, who work out on their own and compete with themselves (i.e., personal bests).
Ice skating also can be performed alone, or it can be a social affair. It is self-competitive, except in the Olympics. The skater is more likely to be drawn into the artistry of the movement itself and is often in search of diversity and variation, which is foreign to the cross-country skier’s repetition, and just plain unimportant to the hockey player.
What’s Needed to Play
Ice hockey can be practiced alone, but in order to play a game, teammates and opponents are essential. Other prerequisites include an appropriate surface (ice), related protective equipment, and a trusty pair of skates.
Cross-country skiing, on the other hand, can be performed alone in local parks, golf courses, or forest preserves whenever Mother Nature has laid down a layer of white. You do need equipment, namely boots and skis, along with clothing that will keep the winter chill out of your workout.
Ice skating also requires an appropriate surface (ice), skates, and warm clothes if you’re outdoors. There is never a need for teammates, referees, or sets of rules (unless you have chosen to compete). In this sport, you just get to the ice, put on your blades, and skate away.
Jim Decides on a Winter Sport
With this information in hand, Jim decided to compare his own physical fitness needs, psychological makeup, and practical assets to the three sports he’d just researched. He decided that hard sprinting and body contact weren’t for him, which eliminated hockey. He also never really thought of himself as graceful enough to excel in ice skating.
On the other hand, he liked the thought of gliding through the woods on a snowy evening, and he knew that the aerobic workout would benefit him in a number of ways. So by process of elimination, Jim decided to give cross-country skiing a try.
One Final Thought…
If you like Jim’s logical train of thought, this process can be applied to any sport in any season. On the other hand, you might just want to say to yourself, “Hey, this sounds like fun. I think I’ll give it a try.” That system works pretty well, too.