Time to get off the beach and get back in the gym. That’s right, pre-season is here. Rugby and football players across the world are coming to terms with the fact that the break period is over and now is the time for real work.
It’s no coincidence that whenever you hear people talking about pre-season it usually follows the word dreaded. Love for the sport you compete in is essential to succeed and so it is no surprise to see how common it is. Love for pre-season however is far less common. Just like an old fashioned medicine though, if it isn’t leaving a bitter taste in your mouth then there is a good chance that it isn’t working quite right.
I’ve mentioned the dangers of the no pain, no gain mentality before but if there is somewhere that it is most apt then it is probably pre-season. Because when we talk about pre-season really what we mean is pre-season fitness training. Essentially a nice way of saying, “that ice cream on the beach may have been exactly what you wanted then but now is the time to burn it off”.
That ice cream will almost definitely have had no impact on your ability to play your sport. What it, and many other holiday treats, will have probably done though is just taken that edge off that was there during the last campaign. Because at the end of the day, there is little point in being the most skillful player in any team if you can’t sustain that performance for a whole match, no matter what sport you play.
What you will probably find is that in your first week of pre-season, which you probably should have completed by now, you might not even play the sport that you are training for. Not kicking a football in your first training session back isn’t unlikely because, like I said, it won’t be that part of your game that needs work right now.
When it comes to the first session back there is usually mixed opinions. Is it best to start slowly and ease your way back to fitness? Or do I need to push myself to the point where vomiting feels like a very real possibility? As always, somewhere in the middle is where you should be looking to aim for. You want to be building the foundations for the rest of pre-season so that in the coming weeks you can look to incorporate shorter exercises. So the popular choice is to start with a run for somewhere between half an hour and an hour at around a 75% intensity.
And just like with the building of a house, once the foundations are put in place you can start to pick up the pace with everything else. This is where the fun begins. Each coach or personal trainer will probably have a different variation on sprinting but either way, you should be expecting the hard work to begin now. HIIT is the popular method right now and it appears to be the most effective that we have ever seen. So those short intervals will be there to offer you some respite but that might be about it. It is only sprinting if you are going at 100% and that is the only way that you will manage to get fitter.
Notice by this point there hasn’t even been a mention of picking up a rugby ball or kicking a football. Again, a lot of that will come down to the preferences and personal choice of whoever is leading your training but don’t expect a good old 5-a-side until you have put in some high quality fitness training.
So don’t wander into pre-season blind. Do some research and try to find out what’s in store. My guess is probably shuttle runs, shuttle runs and more shuttle runs. You won’t be the only one finding it difficult, believe me. So go in focused and prepared to give 100%. It might feel like it will kill you in the short-term but come the end of the season it might just be the difference between giving that extra effort or giving up.