For Maple Leafs’ Nikita Zaitsev, CrossFit training key to his success

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Date sent: 2017/12/04 09:23:57
At the Zebra Gym in Moscow, the off-season <a href=""></a> training home of Maple Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, there is little tolerance for slacking.
A typical 90-minute CrossFit training session led by local CrossFit champion Artem Nehoroshih often leaves professional hockey players in sweaty heaps, Zaitsev included.
“It is so intense, it’s crazy,” Zaitsev was recounting in a recent interview. “My heart rate is always 175, 180 sometimes.”
That’s an oxygen-debt-inducing180 beats per minute thanks to a circuit workout that can include everything from high-repetition barbell squats to high-intensity turns on a stationary bike. But even in the most painful moments of a summertime that included four or five such workouts a week, Zaitsev stood out as a client who “never complained,” said Nehoroshih.
“Other hockey players we train — often they send us a text saying, ‘Oh, sorry, I cannot attempt the training session today because everything is in pain and I’m not feeling well,’ ” Nehoroshih said this week, speaking over the phone from Moscow through an interpreter. “But Nikita didn’t miss a single training session, even though I know the training was very hard on him.”
Said Zaitsev with a smile: “I love CrossFit.”
CrossFit, the branded fitness regimen to which Zaitsev is an adherent, is one of the most successful fitness businesses of the past 20 years — and one of the most controversial. Its mix of elements such as Olympic weightlifting and high-intensity internal training has created a network of thousands of affiliated gyms around the world, not to mention a professional sporting competition known as the CrossFit Games.
And certainly there are those, like Zaitsev, <a href=""></a> who see CrossFit workouts as an ideal off-season addition to any pro athlete’s schedule. A few years back, when the Maple Leafs held training camp in Collingwood, Ont., they stopped by the CrossFit gym owned by ex-NHLer Scott Thornton, a first-round pick of the franchise in 1989.

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