BEND AND STRETCH …

… and strengthen. Cana­di­ens play­ers loosen up with spe­cial­ized work­out.

Montreal Gazette - - Front Page - bbran­swell@ mon­tre­al­gazette.com Twit­ter: bbran­swell

“Af­ter they felt how good you feel af­ter it, it got pretty se­ri­ous. I found it

very use­ful.” CANA­DI­ENS FOR­WARD MAX PA­CIORETTY

When prac­tice ended Wed­nes­day at the Cana­di­ens’ train­ing camp, sev­eral play­ers saun­tered over to the in­door soc­cer field where Sahra Es­monde-White and two other train­ers were wait­ing for them.

For the next 20 min­utes, she led them through a se­ries of stretches, in­clud­ing lunges to stretch and strengthen their core and work on ro­ta­tion in their hip joints.

A few stretches re­quired play­ers to ex­tend a leg and rest their foot on a bench, the same idea as us­ing a barre, but don’t con­fuse their rou­tine with ballet.

It’s a dy­namic stretch­ing pro­gram that tar­gets many mus­cles in ro­ta­tional move­ment rather than just hold­ing a stretch po­si­tion for 15 sec­onds and work­ing one mus­cle group. It also works on strength.

“Some of what we do can look Tai Chi-ish be­cause it’s very flow­ing and it’s very full body move­ment, but it’s dy­namic,” said Es­monde-White, pres­i­dent of Essentrics, which is also the name of the fit­ness pro­gram.

The Cana­di­ens be­ganus­ing Essentrics last Jan­uary dur­ing train­ing camp. The play­ers had done yoga, where you main­tain a po­si­tion for a long pe­riod of time, but Pierre Al­lard, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, said he wanted some­thing more dy­namic.

What he likes about Es­monde-White’s tech­nique is that ev­ery­thing is done while mov­ing.

“I think that it’s a lot more ori­ented to­ward sports be­cause play­ers must be able to con­trol their mus­cles while mov­ing,” Al­lard said.

He told play­ers to be pa­tient at the start and wait a few ses­sions to see how they felt.

“And that’s what was the most im­por­tant. It wasn’t what they did, but how they felt,” Al­lard said.

He heard from some play­ers al­most im­me­di­ately who said they felt good.

There was some ini­tial skep­ti­cism with play­ers jok­ing around, laugh­ing at the move­ments, said Cana­di­ens for­ward Max Pa­cioretty.

“But then af­ter they felt how good you feel af­ter it, it got pretty se­ri­ous,” Pa­cioretty said. “I found it very use­ful and I know a lot of guys in the room have felt the same way.

“Some­times af­ter prac­tice and stuff, you get on the plane and you’re not re­ally fully re­cov­ered and ready for the travel,” said Pa­cioretty, who noted his back tends to tighten up a bit af­ter a skate.

“I’ve no­ticed the big­gest dif­fer­ence in my back, in my hips.

“It’s more of a fun way than just sit­ting there and do­ing stretch­ing on your own and sit­ting on the car­pet and stretch­ing out your mus­cles. It’s more of an ac­tive rou­tine.”

The fit­ness pro­gram was de­vel­oped by Sahra’s mother, Mi­randa Es­monde-White, a for­mer dancer with the National Ballet of Canada and host of the long-run­ning “Clas­si­cal Stretch” ex­er­cise pro­gram that airs on PBS. (Pro­duc­tion on the tenth sea­son is un­der­way.)

She founded the Mon­tre­al­based com­pany Essentrics and is ac­tively in­volved in the creative side of the busi­ness as one of three part­ners. Sahra runs the com­pany while their other part­ner, Melissa Tran, is re­spon­si­ble for the fi­nan­cial side of things.

In ad­di­tion to train­ing in­struc­tors, pro­duc­ing DVDs, and stag­ing fit­ness hol­i­days, the com­pany signed its first book deal last spring for three books with Ran­dom House in Canada and Harper Collins in the United States. Essentrics opened a stu­dio on Stan­ley St. a few years ago, a move that Sahra Es­monde-White be­lieves was one of the key fac­tors be­hind the com­pany’s growth spurt. In the past two years, they’ve jumped from four em­ploy­ees to 13.

With the short­ened sea­son fol­low­ing the NHL lock­out, Al­lard said he thought it was a good time to bring them in “so that we could pre­vent in­juries, things like that.”

“Strength at the full range of mo­tion, that’s re­ally im­por­tant and that’s what Sahra’s team is do­ing,” he said.

The post-prac­tice ses­sions are held one to two times a week, de­pend­ing on the sched­ule.

“What we want is to keep it short, keep it very fo­cused, es­pe­cially on hip and shoul­der joints,” Al­lard said.

Es­monde-White said she sees speed, agility and in­jury preven­tion as the top ben­e­fits for the hockey play­ers from their pro­gram.

“They learn so quickly,” she said.

“That’s what’s the amaz­ing thing to teach high-per­for­mance ath­letes is that you watch them change and they change so fast.

“Be­cause they have such good body aware­ness, you’re able to progress faster, and work harder and more ef­fi­ciently (with them).”

JOHN MA­HONEY / THE GAZETTE

JOHN MA­HONEY/ THE GAZETTE

Sahra Es­monde-White leads Cana­di­ens play­ers through a stretch­ing rou­tine Wed­nes­day. The pro­gram tar­gets many mus­cles in ro­ta­tional move­ment.

BRENDA BRANSWELL

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