Sam Zajac goes ‘old school’ to stay in shape ready for Leeds Chiefs’ return

ONE thing the lockdown has forced people to get inventive over is keeping fit - particularly for professional sportsmen and women.
Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac has learned to adapt in order to stay in shape during what is expected to be an extended close-sason. Picture: Dean Woolley.Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac has learned to adapt in order to stay in shape during what is expected to be an extended close-sason. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac has learned to adapt in order to stay in shape during what is expected to be an extended close-sason. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Deprived of both ice and a gym, Leeds Chiefs’ player-coach Sam Zajac is resorting to more basic methods in order to remain sharp.

Having seen his team’s debut NIHL National season brought to an early conclusion by the coronavirus pandemic, Zajac - along with the rest of British ice hockey - has been denied his usual workout facilities for more than two months.

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OLD-SCHOOL: Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.OLD-SCHOOL: Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
OLD-SCHOOL: Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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There is no indication yet as to when the sport will return, either from the government or governing bodies - the 2020-21 season is scheduled to begin in September but is expected to be delayed - meaning Zajac and his fellow players simply don’t know how long the current situation will last.

For the most part, the 30-year-old defenceman has been confined to his garage and the sports field at the back of his home and while the hours he works as a Royal Mail delivery worker are enough to keep him generally fit, he is having to find other ways to retain the explosive strength and power he needs on the ice.

“If anything, the lockdown has probably shown that you can get by without relying so much on the gym and other things like that,” said Zajac. “You can obviously never replace being out on the ice, but you just learn to adapt.

“Apparently this is the new normal and you just do the best you can. I’m just trying to make sure that when we do get going again and get back on the ice and into the gym, that I am as ready as possible.

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“My job keeps me active, but it’s not really helpful for the hockey where a lot of the training is explosive.

“Over the years I’ve amassed a fair bit of equipment, so I’ve been doing stuff at home, although with the weather being so kind it has allowed me to get out on the sports field at the back of where I live.

“A few of us have been bouncing ideas off each other about various ways to stay in shape and I’ve been doing a lot of cycling, a lot of hill sprints and dumbbells - the old-school, prison workout really.

“Obviously, it’s far from ideal, but it’s certainly do-able.”

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