So how are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Many of us (and some of us included) have seen teammates that started the year off with a renewed fervor for hitting the gym, playing more games or taking up running, have already started to slip in their commitments or abandon them all together. If that is not you – congratulations and keep it up! You are a rare and beautiful breed, don’t change and don’t let up!

For the rest of you (ahem, and some of us), failed resolutions are not a good excuse to let your (or our) game slip. So here are some tips for improving your game that aren’t based on increased strength, endurance and time at the gym.

Use the boards

Who hasn’t wished they had an extra hand at some point? On the ice we are often wishing for an open hand and forget that the boards are ALWAYS open, and if played right, they will also always “pass” to where you want them to. The more you play the boards the better you will learn the angles and bounces and the luckier you will get using this extra player to your advantage. This quick-sheet goes over 5 different ways to play the boards for an advantage – or at the very least – a way out of a tricky situation!

Use deception

“The Fake” or “Deke” are classic deception techniques that most players are familiar with but still we don’t see a lot of them in play on the ice in rec games. And no, I’m not expecting rec players to go out and start dipsy-doodling around their opponents, but you don’t have to wait for a breakaway to practice deception. Strategic steps in the wrong direction, an intentional look or head fake can often be enough to outsmart your opponent and give you a leg up in your game. This article covers off techniques for faking and varying your speed, using the “Mohawk” technique and more, it’s worth the read.

Don’t underestimate balance, flexibility and reflexes

So maybe long bouts of intense cardio or getting to the gym to use their weights ad machines just doesn’t fit into your schedule right now, there are some things you can do that don’t take long, they aren’t hard and they don’t require any equipment that will improve your game by improving your balance, flexibility and reflexes. Check out these seven moves that will boost your balance and are easy to sneak into your routine either in the morning, at night, before a game or during that 3.5 minutes it takes to pop a bag of popcorn.  Here is a basic stretch routine that will help improve flexibility and range of motion and again, any time, anywhere – every little bit helps! Finally, improving your reflexes will help with catching that quick pass, getting off that key shot, all of your footwork and stick handling and pulling of those quick turns when needed. To do this it’s as simple as grabbing a tennis ball and bounce/catching off a wall or playing one-sided ping-pong or these fun – if not downright playful - drills for improved upper and lower body reflexes.

And hey, if you work on these AND still hit the gym or stick to your cardio workouts you’ll be twice as awesome on the ice! That’s how that works, right?