There's nothing quite like having your body fat tested -- right after the holidays. That's been my reality for the past 12 years, thanks to the annual USA Hockey winter camp, which just happened to start on Dec. 26. When we're there, we also do all sorts of various fitness tests, including bench presses, chin-ups and vertical jumps. That's followed by our on-ice conditioning assessment, where we skate from blue line to goal line seven times (there and back is one), take a five-minute rest and do it again.
OK, I realize this isn't sounding like a ton of fun on paper, but it's a great opportunity for all of us to spend time as a group and grow as a team. After all the testing is done, we divide up and play a three-game series. We may be competing for a common team, but that doesn't mean we don't want to win these games. There was definitely some good-natured Twitter ribbing going on over the course of those few days!
Many of us hadn't seen each other since our trip to Finland for the Four Nations Cup back in November. Despite losing to Canada in the prelims, we ended up getting a rematch in the championship game -- and we took home the gold! We had lost to Canada in overtime on our home turf at the world championships last year, which definitely made the Four Nations win just a little bit sweeter. The World Championship will be in Ottawa this April, so it's safe to say we'd like to beat Canada there.
A Four Nations highlight for me was seeing the future of USA Hockey in 15-year-old Jincy Dunne. Because she was announced to the team at the last minute, she had only packed for our pre-Four Nations camp. Once we got to Finland, I asked her how she was feeling. Her answer? "Well, I'm really only worried about not having enough pants."
Instead of being nervous about traveling abroad or competing against the top players in the world, she was concerned about her pants. I thought that was fantastic! As the oldest on that squad at age 30 -- someone on the team so kindly mentioned that -- technically, I could be Jincy's mom. Yikes! It is awesome women's hockey has such young, talented players now.
I've been going non-stop since we got back from Finland. I coach at Union College in Albany, N.Y., during the week, and then drive to my games with the Montreal Stars on Saturday. We play on Sunday just in time for me to turn around and head back to New York.
If it sounds like a lot of travel, well, it is. But I have Sirius XM radio in my car, so on all of those road trips to Canada, I make sure to get my music fix. Currently, I'm loving "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers. I get pretty excited when that song comes on, and I may or may not belt it out at the top of my lungs (thankfully, no one is usually there to hear it).
My schedule will stay relatively steady until the next big team USA tournament coming at worlds this spring. I may be old enough to mother a teammate (kidding, kidding), but I still feel strong and healthy. I am thankful I'm still able to do what I love and keep up this crazy schedule. More road trips, please!
Follow Julie Chu on Twitter: @juliechu13