The “fit” in Hockey FIT stands for fans in training.
The program, which emerged from a 2014 Western University pilot, encourages those who share a passion for their local ice hockey team to develop a passion for fitness and good nutrition too.
“It gives fans some chance to go behind the scenes with their favorite teams and join forces with other like-minded people to improve their health,” said Brendan Riggin, who is both a hockey fit trainer and scientist at the Western Center for Studies in Family Medicine.
The first question fans were asked was, “What does it take to interest you?”
Riggin says the answer was almost always the same: “They said, ‘We like to be with other like-minded men and like to combine physical activity with competition and exercise. ‘In Canada, that probably means you’re a hockey fan. “
Pete Miller was one of the early participants. “I would say the first two, three, or even four sessions were pretty difficult, you know? Legs burned, lungs burned and everything; but in the end it was pretty enjoyable. I kind of fell in love with the fitness program. “
Hockey FIT program (file)
Miller has held an Owen Sound Attack season ticket for over two decades. He says the coaching sessions from Attack team members and trainers, along with a small friendship contest, helped keep participants motivated.
“Nobody wanted to be the last to run a lap on the track. They wanted to make sure they were getting better every week. “
According to Riggin, COVID-19 hasn’t slowed interest in hockey FIT, although some training sessions have been interrupted. The program currently has approximately 2,000 participants across the country and seven other teams have signed up to participate this fall.
“It was really fantastic to work with teams. They really want to engage with their fans and give them back in every possible way. And they saw this as an opportunity to do so. “
He says the program appeals to communities of all sizes.
“Centers like Mississauga, for example. But also some of the more rural communities like Owen Sound or Pentiction in the west. It’s a very small community, only about 30,000 people, and often about 3,000 of them will take part in games. So it is a significant part of their community that participates in the hockey games and follows the team. We had a fantastic response out there too. “
Riggin emphasizes that even a little activity and a good diet can go a long way in combating health problems like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.