New York Rangers v Boston Bruins - Game Five

As human beings, we admire when others have exceptional work ethics, and so we should. Sloth is the enemy, and those who put their heart and soul into what they do should be celebrated. That group of people includes the great Jaromir Jagr, one of the most hard-working supremely gifted humans in hockey. There’s a reason he’s still an effective hockey player at age 41.

Yesterday Elliotte Friedman of CBC wrote about Jagr and his aforementioned admirable work ethic, which shared some of the details about his regimen, which includes extra on-ice workouts with a weight vest…after actual games have finished. He uses a heavy puck, and occasionally weights his skates to make his muscles work harder. His place in Pittsburgh was rumoured to good for two things: sleeping and working out. Petr Prucha, who stayed with him for awhile, said “While the NHL is sleeping, he is working.”

Kudos, kudos, kudos. It’s obviously worked and been effective for him. He’s had a tremendous hockey career.

But permit me the question, or at the very least hear me out: is it too much? Is he overdoing it right now? (Keep in mind, I’m speculating. Hypothesizing. Blogging, if you will.)

I can’t help but think about the Clint Malarchuk short documentary where he talks about his OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and the OCD of some athletes. He talks about Larry Bird and how he wouldn’t go to bed until he hit a hundred jump shots that didn’t just not touch the rim, but barely touched net on the way through. He talks about using your OCD to make you better, and that’s all well and good. But there has to be some limits to what’s beneficial, doesn’t there?

Over-training is a thing. It can wear you down, sap your energy, and leave your capacity for physical exertion diminished.

Jaromir Jagr is 41 years old, and after playing in a five-period double-overtime playoff game in the Eastern Conference Final the other night – one in which he played a big part in ending, I acknowledge – he apparently went back on the ice with his weight vest to burn his legs some more. (Part of me wonders if he doesn’t just like avoiding the media, but let’s just ignore that angle for now.) This is, again, what we consider awe-inspiring, amazing, and admirable, because it is. Most of us could never put ourselves through hell, come out the other side, then convince ourselves to trek back down into the sulfur fires for more punishment.

But is that blinding us to the reality that it’s probably not that smart to do at this point of the NHL season?

Of course, now that I’m writing this, he’ll score three and two for five tonight (which would be fine by me, I’m not anti-Jagr, I’m just going for a mental walk here), but I’m even looking to earlier in the post-season, back to the start of playoffs, and wondering if it’s really been beneficial to go at training like he has. He has zero goals and seven assists, good for 8th on his team in points this post-season. He always looks dangerous, he’s made some nice passes, but I can’t help but think that rest and sleep for his slightly older legs wouldn’t help him have more pop night-in night-out than going out after games and doing more work.

Guys ride the bike after the game to flush the lactic acid from their legs, which can leave you stiff, sore, and dead-legged the next day if you just finish the game, shower and leave. They cold tub for the same reason. No resistance, get things moving, flush ‘em out and be on your way (speaking of resistance, if an older guy is going to do extra-training, shouldn’t it better more fast-twitch stuff than heavy weights? Anyway, that’s not the point). Maybe Jagr is doing that too, but if that’s the case it still just seems like a lot to ask of your body to me.

I know it’s the only way he’s ever known, and I know it’s jaw-dropping that he’s that committed to his fitness. I also think it’s fair to wonder if he isn’t doing too much right now. One thing we know for sure is that he’s too revered, too respected and too successful for anyone to ever suggest it to him, so he’s going to keep on the path he’s travelling.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but Jaromir Jagr hasn’t scored in 15 playoff games, so I think it’s fair to wonder if things aren’t maybe possibly moving a little teensy-tiny bit towards the busted side.

Comments (25)

  1. And that’s why he’s a lock first ballot HOF’er, who’s still playing at 41, and you never sniffed the NHL.

    • Ha – exactly. Everyone knows the major difference between HOFers and lesser pro athletes is that HOFers never speculate.

    • Pretty much. It’s hard to argue with success. That he’s even playing at all at 41 years old speaks to how good his methods must be. Yeah, he’s not scoring goals, but he’s had some important assists and hasn’t been a liability. Also, if he’s been training this way his whole career, it may not be nearly as taxing on his body as it would be a mere mortal’s.

    • Wait, I didn’t make the NHL because I suggested an elite athlete’s admirable work ethic might be excessive? I was always told it was mostly because I was garbage along the wall in my own zone. I’m so confused now.

      • I was referring more to his unreal drive to stay in shape, and get stronger and keep working to still be able to play the game at 41 vs. your own stated lack of preparation; “I didn’t even go to Islanders camp because I wasn’t in good enough shape, and didn’t want to embarrass my family name” (Might be paraphrasing that a little bit).

        • I’m willing to bet that being in the NHL training camp that you’ve mentioned would in fact smell a bit like the NHL, actually. That lingering smell might be why he has such insightful analysis and is writing a world class blog and voting for NHL awards this year.

          Keep squatting and puking and I suppose you’ll be successful too.

      • I took a cheap shot earlier, and I’ll apologize for that.

        Here’s the thing. Your blog questions if he’s training too much, yet all the announcers and talking heads and others with access to a keyboard said Jagr seemed to get more legs as OT progressed in game 3. That’s where the extra training comes in. He wasn’t getting any faster or stronger, he was staying the same. Everyone else was slowing down and getting fatigued while Jagr wasn’t. This allowed him to look like he was getting better, without actually getting better.

  2. He’s been doing it his whole career. So, no.

    Do you believe that if he stopped or reduced it he’d suddenly improve?

    • The point is that right now, in the playoffs, things may be difference. He hasn’t gone this deep into the playoffs since 2001, when his body was very different.

  3. Ther are specfic symptoms to “over training”, I would have to assume the team trainer and an experienced athelete like Jagr would be aware of them. If he has trained this way for years I doubt he would be impacted by it now, but it is a fair question. You also may want to check on that latic acid causing soreness thing, some newer research has shown that may not Be true. I am mobile or I would dig up a link to the research

    • I think the misuse or unclear definition of the term “overtraining” is clouding the discussion here.

      He may not be overtrained, but he may be training too much if his goal is to maximize performance in games. Those two things are not even close to the same thing.

      If I was entering a powerlifting competition on Saturday I wouldn’t squat 5×5 @ 80% of my max on Friday. I’m training too much or too often or too close to the important events but I’m not overtraining.

  4. While there is some “bro-science” (weighted puck, weighted skates) – it is hard to argue with Jagr’s results.

    And I can guarantee that any real symptoms of over-training (injury, chronic fatigue, etc etc) would be more apparent and quite obvious, especially at his age.

    And over_head is right – there have been some interesting studies done on lactic acid. It isn’t the cause of muscle soreness (the muscle fibres are), and it gets “flushed out” of the system on its own. The bike has other physiological benefits (clears the head, lets the heart rate drop down comfortably), though.

    Here’s one study:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=lactate%20metabolism%3A%20a%20new%20paradigm%20for%20the%20third%20millennium

  5. Ya i’m with Justin on this one, overtraining is certainly a real thing and worthy of a blog post. Jagr has his methods and he is without a doubt one of the best to ever play the game, but weight vests, foot weights etc. have been proven to increase chance of injury on dry land so I can’t see it being different on the ice. What benefit is found in doing more cardio after 5 periods of playoff hockey when your body is infact long ago breaking down muscle for energy? I would need to see what his diet, sleeping patterns etc. are… but the idea that it could do more harm than good is at least worth talking about.

  6. I thought the same thing when I read this article this morning. As long as we are speculating, was the wear and tear from this type of training routine his motivation for fleeing to the KHL? Maybe he thought that being subjected to a lower level of competition and a shorter schedule would buy him a couple more years of playing at the NHL level.

    I am a great admirer of Jags, as I have been since his mullet days, but I also acknowledge that he is an eccentric and egotistical character as well (see the bit about walking around the room in a towel). He strikes me as a guy that would be pretty concerned about his legacy. Concerned enough to possibly experiment with PEDs while playing overseas? I’m not so sure that I’ve arrived at that conclusion yet; I don’t believe that every athlete that performs at an extraordinary level at an advanced age is a cheater, but if I am correct in assuming that he is a competitior of highest degree, I would assume that he would be looking for any edge available… Especially with his game in decline.

    His dominance of the NHL during the ’90s is undeniable, but his pitfalls are also well documented. He’s become a lovable character since his return to the NHL, but prior to leaving for the KHL he often appeared to be kind of cold and aloof. This polarity of personality leads me to believe that very few people “know” Jaromir Jagr, certainly myself included.

    Regardless, I admire his tenacity and I think the New York series was really important for him as far as carving out his role on this team. The Toronto series was tough to watch at times because it just wasn’t happening for him. I’m glad to see he’s having fun again and I hope the Bs can get it done.

  7. None of us are experts so we shouldn’t comment

  8. A writer you may know wrote about being in really good shape once-upon-a-time…

    http://blogs.thescore.com/nhl/2012/08/28/on-conditioning-confidence-and-the-third-period/?utm_source=blogs.thescore.com&utm_medium=related-post-plugin&utm_campaign=On+conditioning%2C+confidence%2C+and+the+third+period
    (yea, someone reads that stuff)

    No, it’s not exactly the same, but you’re article I think sums up the reason Jagr does it. He knows at the end of games he’s got more left than anyone else.

    Jagr may actually be OCD about this, or maybe he’s just enigmatic(I know, not Russian), but I’d say he’d know better than anyone else if it was a detriment to him.

  9. I was actually wondering about this the other day. Overtraining is a reality, especially in pro sports. All the points Justin brought up are interesting and I would say hold water, especially at this point of such a condensed season. But what about the mental side of his training? I’m not a huge UFC guy, but I remember a while back hearing a guy do an interview and he spoke of how he used his training as a mental security blanket of sorts. He HAD to have X amount of cardio sessions, and weightlifting sessions at time Y, and Z. He hated doing interviews and all the media stuff leading up to fights because it messed with his schedule. I wonder if Jagr is the same? Both behaviours exhibit OCD tendencies and I wouldn’t be surprised if it existed with Jagr in some way. Further, I wonder if the psychological security that results from his excessive habits outweigh the risks of overtraining (If so, keep skating marathons buddy, here’s another vest). Obviously there is no way to determine this, but some food for thought.

  10. I have to imagine that the Bruins training staff is keeping a close eye on Jagr’s training. As you say, overtraining is a real thing, with readily identifiable symptoms, both observable and reported by the patient, so I have to think if they see something they think is causing harm to his fitness level, they’d tell him to shut it down. I don’t know what he’s doing when he goes out for these things, or what his perceived exhaustion level is, but keep in mind he’s usually in sweats when he’s doing them, so it’s likely the weight vest is simulating the full compliment of sweat-soaked hockey gear he wears during games. And I’ve done plenty of work with weighted pucks, even after intense practice sessions, and I can’t say I’m feeling seriously fatigued (though the forearms tend to get a good burn going).

  11. It’s extremely hard to over train. It’s extremely easy to under rest. Hence, if he’s getting adequate rest and proper nutrition then no he is not overtraining.

    Kairos
    Personal Fitness & Nutrition Consultant

  12. “speaking of resistance, if an older guy is going to do extra-training, shouldn’t it better more fast-twitch stuff than heavy weights? ”

    1) What do you think lifting heavy weights does?

    2) Worrying about what type of muscle you’re using is missing the forest for the trees.

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