Train smarter, not harder

By Peter Nugent

JANUARY is synonymous in GAA circles with terms like ‘the grind’ ‘the slog’ and ‘gutting match.’

Thinking back to my introduction to senior football as a player, we would be immersed in one gruelling, leg-sapping session after another three times  a week through the entire month, and that held true for the majority of February too.

It is worth noting that the club football landscape in the mid noughties was a much different place with regards to the preparation and science that went in to preparing club teams. For the most part there was a dearth of real expertise in the field of sports science on the ground.

Terms and practices routinely spouted in modern times like ‘progressive overload’ or ‘max velocity’ just weren’t the vocabulary of the time.

One manager would assemble us early on a Sunday morning at a local park for a 12-minute run around a soccer pitch. The aim was to get as many laps in as possible within the 12 minutes. This would provoke much anxiety among a large contingent of the panel as there wasn’t exactly much to get enthused about, especially so early on a Sunday morning.

Ultimately, in terms of preparing a senior club team, this method of weekend taxation would have little impact on improving the team’s ability to perform in the months that would follow.

Fast forward some 15 years and factor in the advances in sport science, the loftier profile of the club game and the many-appointed S&C coaches throughout clubs across the country and it’s all change. Yet some alarming trends appear to still be en vogue.  Over the past few weeks many players have been prescribed with a mixture of the following running programmes to tide them over until collective training returns.

Player 1 – 5km run – hard as you can do it – twice a week.

Player 2 – four  x  six-minute run – two  minutes  rest between runs – three  running sessions per week.

Player 3 –  five x 1km – 90 seconds  rest between runs – three running sessions per week.

The above sessions are fine, if your primary focus is to see your name in lights at the Saturday morning park fun run, but if we are to get serious about our preparation then the onus is maybe on the players to ask how any prescribed program will serve their short- and long-term ambitions.

Gaelic football, hurling and camogie are games that when played well exhibit the execution of skills with precision, speed and accuracy. As a coach the ownership lies at my door to ensure the teams approach to conditioning mirrors the multi-faceted demands of our games.

Gaelic games require:

– You to work on the mastery of the basic skills, off both left and right sides.

– Speed – achieved when sprinting above 25 meters and below 60 meters (with appropriate long periods of rest).

– Acceleration – 0-25/35 meters dependent on the individual.

– A strong anaerobic system – MAS runs, Speed endurance, well-structured game scenarios.

– Plyometric mechanics – jump/land/hopping/ deceleration/unilateral movements.

– A structured resistance training programme that will meet the robust demands of the sport.

– A good aerobic base – can be attained through tempo runs maxing out at 100m.

Coaches and players can benefit from shedding the generic fitness rhetoric that comes at this time of year – this idea that  more volume, more miles in the legs and long hours put in now will stand to you later in the year.  That’s bullshit.

Upping the volume dosage to heavy in January if you’ve been dormant from October is signing your own death warrant. Coaches have a duty to the players and players have a duty to themselves to ask for better.

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