On a freezing cold January night, with the hail storming down you can hear a familiar shout from the management team “once you start running laps, you are wasting your time!” this is something I struggled to grasp in my early days. I thought it was all about simply getting the metres covered. Now with a better understanding of energy systems, I realise how pre-season training is so much more than that.

Gaelic Football, like a lot of field based sports requires a level of aerobic fitness to get through the 60-70 minutes, but it remains primarily a sport that requires high intensity bursts of speed (Glycolytic). And it is these anaerobic energy systems that we should be prioritising in our training (both on and off the field) to replicate what we want to achieve on match day.

With my own training (and any clients that I have) I often start with the end goal in mind and then reverse engineer both my on field and gym training from this. Quite often players will get one of these right while overlooking the other. Most likely this year, like every other year I’ll be playing and training in the full back line. This means that a large proportion of any running that I will do will be high intensity sprints to either; accelerate quickly and win the ball ahead of the corner forward, or to close the angle down quickly and get a block in when he goes to shoot. This will utilise a combination of both the anaerobic energy systems (Glycolysis and ATP-CP) at regular stages throughout the game. With these in mind my own on field training programme starts this January with 15 sec on/15 sec off sprints. As the sessions go on I’ll change the distance and rest periods as and when required – the most important aspect is that I’m working on getting there and stopped within the time frame before going again “not running laps”.

“the most important aspect is that I’m working on getting there and stopped within the time frame before going again “not running laps”.

Taking this off the field and into the gym, this is where my focus needs to change at this time of the year. More often than not, this is the area that most players fall down on. The trainee still needs to have the above end goals in mind. Too often I walk into a gym and see someone following a generic body building programme or just doing random training (“random training leads to random results” Brian Keane) and this doesn’t compliment or support them on the pitch.

For me in my position, my concentration will be on speed-strength and generating that explosive power to replicate the movements on the pitch. I’ll continue to work on compound lifts namely the squat, bench and deadlift. The volume however, will be low (only about 2-3 per set, up to about 6 sets). This will allow me to work on the concentric part of the lift and aim to generate as much power as I possibly can into each and every one of those reps. The motivation here is not to overwork the muscle and sacrifice form. My assistance work includes a lot of unilateral exercises as with all the twisting, turning and acceleration of Gaelic football it is crucial that I am able to generate powerful movement in every direction. Quite often this could be on one leg when getting across to tackle a player. For example during squat days I’m currently working on Bulgarian split squats and resistance band knee drives to ensure that I strengthen my legs and specifically the glutes. Having these firing right on match days will allow me to accelerate quicker and get to that ball first! If I was to just simply turn up at the gym and try to max out my squat and go home it wouldn’t have as great an impact.

A good personal trainer or coach should have all this included right from your first session and tailor your programming to enable you to reach your goals. As well as the above you will need to ensure that your nutrition is also in line with the desired outcome. The take home points are:

1.    Start with the goal in mind – what is it you want to achieve and then reverse engineer you training programme to map out how you will get there

2.    Ensure that your on and off field training is aligned with the above goals

3.    Work on the areas of weakness – if you can cover X amount of miles with ease but are getting beat in 10 metres sprints then ensure this gets the attention it requires

4.    Get your nutritional plan in place to support your goals

Hopefully you managed to get some information from this blog to help support you in your pre-season training this year. If you want to discuss any of the content e.g. energy systems and how to plan your training around these then drop me an email.