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Talking fitness, nutrition with former Shark Jamie Baker

Jamie Baker has spent a large portion of his adult life sleeping in hotel rooms. First as a player in the NHL and now as a broadcaster for the Sharks, Baker spends plenty of time on the road between October and June. Fitting exercise into an already packed schedule is a challenge Baker takes on, unsurprisingly, with the same trademark enthusiasm he brings to everything else.

“I just, I try and take care of myself and I try and maintain good health,” said Baker. “I’m not a health nut because I believe in balance and having fun, too. So, you know, especially on the road I’ll go out for dinner or have a glass of wine or a beer but I try to stay relatively healthy.”

Baker’s go-to exercise of choice has been yoga for the past four or five years. He frequents Core Power Yoga in San Jose and in any road trip city that happens to have one. Baker says he visits the yoga studio at least five times a week and says he wish he had done so back when he was playing.

“I’ve seen some of the 49ers use it,” said Baker. “I think guys should, it’s even, you don’t have to do the extreme classes you might do the moderate. It’s just good for your breathing and it’s good for your healing. They do a lot of other stuff.”

Baker says he feels it does him a lot of good now that nagging injuries over the years have started to catch up with him. Gone are the days of intensive weight training, replaced by building long, lean muscles and a focus on injury prevention.

“I have people trying to get me to do cross fit and I have too many nagging injuries that I have to keep an eye on,” said Baker. “(Yoga) is my go to.”

The biggest difference Baker sees between fitness in the NHL now versus when he was a player is the frequency of it. Gone are the days when players showed up to training camp to get in shape, replaced by players who monitor everything from their calorie intake to how many hours they sleep.

First of all they’re in shape 12 months of the year, and I’d say the game has evolved, the training has evolved, the technology for teams training like tracking…everything has evolved in all sports. So the athletes today are just in better shape than we were. We were in great shape, but they are finely tuned machines. We didn’t have as many resources. I remember after a playoff series a couple of years ago, I was at Sharks ice a couple weeks after, and Joe Thornton was already in there working out. He was riding a bike because he didn’t want to get out of shape. With the speed of the game, there’s so much skating, they have to, their training has to change and has to evolve because the game is faster than it’s ever been. There’s no obstruction.

How does a player like Thornton stay so fit at his age?

You have to do it first of all. I don’t know what (Thornton) did when he was 19 or 20 but since he’s been with the Sharks he’s had a great off-ice fitness level and commitment. It’s a somewhat customized program for every guy. You gotta take it seriously all the time. It’s rest, it’s nutrition and it’s the training that you do. Those three components, finding the right balance and then it’s up to the athletes. You look at Pavelski who has just played his 400th straight game, knock on wood, there’s a reason they don’t miss a lot of games. A lot has to do with their rest, nutrition and their training. The rest and nutrition are ultimately the most important.

How has nutrition changed since you were a player?

We were kind of on our own nutrition wise. You’d carbo load on the day of the game. Our big thing was to make sure you get out of bed and eat breakfast. A lot of young guys didn’t do it. They didn’t do it. They were skipping out on the most important meal of the day. So it seems funny, but it actually makes sense. The accessibility on the plane, we get on the plane and it’s healthy food. One time they get to cheat is right after the game. The hard part is as a broadcaster is that we’re not working out. So there are meals in the press room and then there’s food on the plane. You’ve got to be careful. This last month has not been easy (because of the travel).

Best way to prepare for playing in a back-to-back?

Hydrate. Replenish with food —€” the good foods. A lot of protein. Stuff like that. Rest. Day of game everybody is different. I didn’t like to nap later in the day unless I was really, really tired. I just didn’t like doing it.

It’s up to each player, right? Everyone is individual that way and always will be. It’s rest, it’s refuel and then the preparation…everyone is different you know. I used to have a whole reminder checklist and I’d sit out on the rink somewhere and go through all of that. Everyone has their gameday routine it’s just…you got a short turnaround.

I couldn’t get Baker to make any predictions about the Sharks heading into the playoffs this season, but he would say that he has a good feeling about this team.

“I don’t make predictions and lets not forget the western conference is brutally competitive, but I really like this rendition of the Sharks,” said Baker. There’s a great vibe. There’s a trust in each other and there’s good communication between the players and coaches. We’ve talked about the depth and the goaltending but there’s a real good vibe in there and everybody feels apart of it.”

Thanks to Bakes for taking the time to talk. Okay…let’s watch this one more time.

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