'How do I get that extra burst of skating speed?'

Acceleration is key. Skating during a game isn't about how fast you are, but how quick you can be.

Q: I'm not getting the jump I'd like to have in my skating. What can I do to get that extra burst of speed?

Brian, St. John's, Nfld.  

A: Skating during a game isn't about how fast you are, but how quick you can be. Our hockey fitness guru, Ed McNeely, explains:

"Speed is not as important as acceleration for a hockey player. The average period of hard skating during a shift is less than four seconds, not enough time to reach full speed when you have to change direction to avoid other players or make a move on the ice."

The first step, McNeely says, is getting stronger in you lower body. Generally, you have enough strength to work on your sprints when you can do a full squat of 1.75 times your body weight-when you can do this, you're good to go. Anything past this amount doesn't seem to improve acceleration. Next come the workouts:

"Acceleration is built through shorter sprints, less than four seconds, with lots of stops and starts and long rest periods while anaerobic fitness is built through longer fatiguing sprints with short rest periods.

"This is done with power skating. Some people like to do dryland and bike sprints but the movements in sprinting and skating are so different that a big improvement in sprinting only results in a small improvement in skating acceleration.

"It may not seem like your son or daughter is working hard when they are doing acceleration training but remember, smart training is always better than hard training."

Q: I seem to be hitting a wall when I'm on the ice-I don't have the energy level I want late in the game or practice. I don't get it. I eat right, I'm in great shape, but it seems like I can never keep up when the going gets tough. What can I do???

James, Flin Flon, Manitoba

A: James, it could be a number of reasons, but here's the most simple one for you:

Are you drinking enough water?

You may think you are, but it might not be enough. And you're not alone-a study in Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism said that out of 44 players trying out for the Canadian world junior team this season, over half arrived at practice in various states of dehydration.

So rule one: hydrate beforehand. Drink at least two cups of water an hour before ice time.

Rule two: drink as often as you can during the game or practice. At every break, or when sitting on the bench. Not drinking water just to "show how tough you are" is stupid and dangerous.

Important note: if you lose a lot of salt in your sweat-and you'll notice this if you have white patches on your hockey gear after your sweat dries-add a half teaspoon of salt to your water or sport drink.

Afterwards you top priority should be-you guessed it-rehydration. Sport drinks are good immediately after exertion because they replace more than just lost fluid, but water will work fine too. Just drink something! (And not beer at first-that will make things much worse).

This info came from nutrition expert Jennifer Gibson's blog on hydration. Check it out  for more info.