If you’re not going to listen to what your parents say about eating right and staying in shape, take a little advice from a world-class athlete.
Karen Thatcher of the U.S. Women’s National Team knows that staying fit and eating right are important aspects of any hockey player’s routine. She’s living proof of that.
“The commitment that she has made to developing her body off the ice is incredible. It’s really paid dividends for her, and it shows on the ice,” said Teena Murray, strength and conditioning coach for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“She went from being an average athlete to being one of our top five players in about a year.”
Thatcher knew that reaching the national level would take serious commitment, and at age 16 she realized that if she was really going to play in the future something had to be done.
“I was going into my junior year in high school and that’s when colleges started looking and when you start realizing that the dream of playing in college could be a reality,” said the Douglas, Mass., native. “The coaches started talking about how strength and conditioning were important.”
Following that advice, Thatcher began working with a trainer and fought her way through an off-ice training program that propelled her to the next level.
“I immediately started seeing the difference that [the training] made on my on-ice performance, and the more I noticed the results the more I enjoyed the weight room,” Thatcher said.
“It definitely helped me make the transition [easier] from the high school game to the college game. A lot of the girls didn’t start the off-ice training, and it was harder for them to make the transition,” she added.
Her initiative off the ice led Thatcher to Brown University where she played in all 32 of the Bears games as a freshman. She left Brown after one season and continued to maintain her stride, moving across Rhode Island to join Providence College, where she played in 100 games for the Friars over the next three seasons.
Thatcher also realized that in order to remain in elite shape, she knew she had to give up her old ways of eating whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted.
“When I was younger I could eat anything I wanted, but the sooner you realize there are healthy choices the better off you’re going to be,” she said.
Adopting a new meal plan that allowed her body to recover quickly after intense workouts didn’t mean completely cutting out the yummy stuff.
"The more I noticed the results the more I enjoyed the weight room."
“Chocolate milk is the best,” Thatcher said. “It has a natural combination of carbohydrates and protein that helps with your regeneration after a work out, and I love the taste. It feels like I’m getting a treat but I’m also regenerating so I’m ready for the next work out.”
After flying through the college hockey ranks, Thatcher has her sites set on making the Olympic team in 2010.
“She’s made it her lifestyle,” Murray said. “I think every time we come into a training camp, there’s players, like Thatcher, that have really performed well and the other players realize that they need to keep up.”
However, Thatcher knows there will always be room for improvement.
“I know over the last year I’ve made a lot of gains in my training, and I try to focus on my personal result because it helps more,” she said. “As long as I’m improving my results I’m doing OK.”
photo by Getty Images