Shawn’s Story: From the Ice Rink to the Pool

If Shawn Heins’ name rings a bell, you’re thinking of the right Shawn Heins.

You know him as an international hockey powerhouse with teams, such as the San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers and Nationalliga A Fribourg-Gotteron in Switzerland next to his name.

But what you may not know about him is that his workout regimen includes pool time. That’s right!

Shawn discovered the pool as a great cross-training platform about 15 years ago when one of the great hockey players of the time, Peter Forsberg revealed that water exercises played a big part in his hockey training.

Traditionally, cross-training consisted of biking and track and field so incorporating water into a hockey player’s preparation for the season was a novel idea.   

Shawn Used the Pool to Up His Hockey Game

Up until his spinal cord injury, the man with the 100+ miles per hour slapshot and former record holder used the pool in creative ways. It became an extension of cardio exercise, weight training and overall conditioning for him.

“I really liked jumping out of the pool onto the deck because of the explosiveness and rush I got from it. It got my heart rate up really fast and the water added resistance”, says Shawn.

Folks, he is a pro athlete so don’t try this at home! It’s a tricky move.

Freestyle swimming with weight packs was another one of his favorite workouts. He used to spend 30 minutes every 4th or so day in the water to mix up his routine. He did conditioning laps wearing a weight vest or put the packs on his arms to swiftly march or run across the pool.

“I have big respect for triathletes. It’s a hard workout. I don’t consider myself a great swimmer and the pool definitely adds a new dimension to my regular exercise routine.”

When I asked him about how this unusual training method paid off in the ice rink, he added: 

“I felt fresher going into camp. I used to run and bike a lot in the summer and felt sluggish by camp time because I had to put more time into my workout to see results. But in the pool, I had to work harder and got more out of it.”  

…And Still Gets Relief from Injury  

As Shawn got older, he noticed more knee and back pain–typical problem spots for hockey players. And a few years ago, he experienced a spinal cord injury. He’s still recovering from this injury and finds great comfort in his pool.

“When the pain intensifies, I like to hang on a pool noodle and just let the tension in my back release. It’s almost like gravity doesn’t even exist. It feels as if I’m just floating weightlessly.”

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

“You gotta work with what works best for you”, advises Shawn. To him, the pool is one of the safest and hardest ways to work out. It gives him the desired level of aerobic and endurance training.

If you’re considering the pool as a cross-training platform, listen to your body—what it needs, what exercises it is drawn to, and for how long.

Put Your Mind to It

Shawn has an invaluable lesson for all aspiring athletes based on his personal journey:

“The most memorable moment in my career was when I signed my first professional contract. I come from a very small town and had a lot of doubters around me. But I just kept going, worked hard and never lost my passion. When I didn’t make the cut, I worked harder to make it the next year.”

Shawn, thank you for sharing your story. We wish you the very best for a full recovery and hope to see you return to the ice rink soon.

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