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The question: I want to start playing hockey recreationally. Besides learning the game, what exercises should I do in the gym to get into hockey-shape?

The answer: My hat goes off to anyone who tries a new sport, especially hockey. I played as a teenager and I was dreadful. You couldn't possibly be worse.

Make sure you do interval training. To simulate the short bouts of intense work during your shifts on the ice, alternate 30 seconds to two minutes of intense work (think sprinting) with one to five minutes of recovery (think jogging or walking). The longer the work interval, the longer the recovery should be.

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To teach your body to work hard when tired (simulating end-of-game exhaustion), alternate longer bouts of medium-intensity work with short rests. Alternate three to five minutes of hard work (think running, not sprinting), with one to two minutes of recovery.

In the weight room, focus on full-body exercises that increase lean muscle mass. Think squats, deadlifts, clean and presses and pull-ups.

Hockey is not a linear sport, so include exercises that require dynamic, multidirectional movement and improve flexibility. For example, try the "moving limbo side lunge." Keeping your right leg straight, step it out to the side as you sit backward over your left foot. Stay low and move your hips centre so you squat. Continue to stay low as you move your hips into a side lunge to your right. Stand up. Repeat 10 times before switching directions. Confused? Watch the video here.

Make sure to address the neurological demands of the sport. To improve balance and proprioception (the body's ability to know where it is in time and space), do exercises on unstable surfaces, and even better if done in bare feet. When appropriate, close your eyes. To improve agility, co-ordination and reactiveness, include exercises that involve co-ordination and an element of surprise.

Trainer's tip: To train even further for the neurological demands of the sport, try one of my favourite exercises, the "single-leg partner push." Person A stands on one leg. Person B gently and randomly pushes person A, who then attempts to resist and stabilize themselves. To make it harder, person A closes their eyes. To make it even harder, person A does a single leg hop, and partner B only pushes them once they have landed.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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