I like Sunday mornings. Correction: I LOVE Sunday mornings. I never knew what it felt like to really just enjoy lying in for an hour or so and just appreciate the time spent doing nothing. It’s the dream.
I know it sounds like I’m about to announce my engagement with Sunday mornings, but all joking aside, there is really only a collision of two things that can allow a Sunday morning to hold such magic and bed-enabled slothing.
Those things: full-time work, and an off-season training schedule designed by Stalin. Or me. I think my own training schedule is worse.
During the season, for the lower grades anyway, the routine is easy; two-hour cardio and drills twice a week and one game on Saturday. Beers optional but preferred after training and compulsory after the game (hey, sports doctors recommend carbohydrate intake after strenuous exercise, ok!).
During the off-season and pre-season however, it’s a different story. The season has been over for a month, small bulges in the stomach area have started to appear, and the inevitable thought comes to the mind of the player: ‘Maybe going to the gym isn’t such a bad idea…’. Of course, this thought tends to cross the mind mainly of the younger players. Some of the older forwards are less likely to attend a gym than an antiques fair, and must have a secret beer hatch in their equipment bags seeing as how fast a beer appears in their hand after training.
It’s more the younger players you are likely to see, and it’s an unavoidable consequence of going to the gym that you’ll run into one or two young guys from your own club or another club. In fact, I bumped into two guys from our major rival club. My face hurt so much from having to force a smile.
Whether to lose the small gut, work harder to increase stamina, or adjust the body size to move into a new position around the field, off-season training is where I headed come the end of September. After a decent year on the wing, I (perhaps stupidly) decided I wanted to up the muscle mass and work my way into the outside centre position. After having a chat about this move with one of the most experienced players the club has and being told in no uncertain terms to ‘”bulk up”, I almost skipped down to the gym to start work.
To cut a long story short, I’ll just say this: there comes a point where you go to the gym too much. Friends telling you you are a gym junkie are often ignored, but you know it yourself when you start giving less-experienced members advice on weights technique and know some of the other patrons by name. That is the line, and I crossed it.
Four nights a week at the gym giving my entire upper body a workout, as well as sprints training twice weekly. That was my regime, and from the other younger players I’ve spoken to it seems to be akin to their own workout plans too. Mild insanity from the younger set, let me tell you.
Full-time work was thrown into the mix early December too when I started my current job. Nice as it was to have money to fund my nasty gym/training habit, it left a problem: if I couldn’t train during the day when the gym wasn’t busy, I’d have to train at night. Enter the 24-hour gym and all it’s slightly-dodgy glory.
Seeing as I needed to do minor things like eat and relax a bit after work, I’d go to the gym at 9:30 and train until 11:30. Sounds simple? It’s not. You don’t have to queue for machines, but you do have to contend with guys with no necks, others who like to work out with no shirt on (and who definitely should have kept it on), and there’s also one patron who gets a little too weird and asks you to take a photo of him working out (“for his fiancé”).
Hence you can see why I’m in love with my Sundays now. Sunday is my day off. Sunday I have no gym or training to do, and I can sit back and awkwardly move around very slowly due to sore muscles.
But mercifully, that long road of sore muscles, groaning like an old man when getting up, and generally having to walk like a robot from stiffness is over!
Or perhaps not. Because yet another anomaly of reason occurs after the off-season. This is a time of year, usually during sunny and hot weather, where normally-rational adults decide to suspend that rationality for an evening, set up cones in polygonal shapes and run around whilst being yelled at by a shouty person.
Yes, it’s pre-season! That wonderful time when with the sun beating down, a sport where hard training normally takes place in the semi-chill autumn months has it’s all-important first training sessions of the year.
I’m not sure if the added difficulty comes from the sun still being (pardon the pun) glaringly above the horizon during the normal evening training hours, or from the effect of many pints during the off-season. Possibly the latter. Most likely the latter. As the head coach said so eloquently this week: “I’d tell you to get a spare tyre and go for quick runs towing one along, but you bastards seem to have brought your own!”
At any rate, it’s an odd cross between pleasant and torturous. The legs get an airing after a relaxed off-season where the longest trip is from the TV during the World Cup to the pub to watch more of the World Cup. If you’re the eager type, you may have played in a touch competition. But I think I speak for myself when I say that despite weights sessions at the gym and some sprint runs, I have let the padding increase a bit around the midriff. I’ve heard this is desired on a forward. On a back, it is a cardinal sin. So off the pre-season training I went.
A multitude of cones were set up when I arrived. Portents of doom. Omens of the horrible things to come. Actually, I’m kidding. Not as bad as what I thought, but the amount of markers and running routes would have given a gymkhana horse a headache. To make matters worse, I think I may have been the oldest player there. Just quietly, I wondered if any of them had shaved before in their lives. I prepared myself mentally for a session of my wheezing like an asthmatic elephant while the young lads darted around me like gravity had taken the day off of affecting them.
To summarize, I didn’t wheeze as much as I thought, the others where more unfit than I was, and Scottish people enjoy torturing people through physical exercise. Not totally in a bad way. More of a “Noo, ya doon thus is good forrr ya. Come orn, don’t act laek a bug Jessie” kind of way, with other phrases to that affect and accent.
Overall though, whether we whinge like a toddler about having to be thrown, or throwing ourselves, into tough training, in the end it’s good for us. I had to remind a couple of the younger guys of that when they were bent double. The training isn’t for our benefit now, it’s so we can be stronger players later this year. The more training we do now and the better we prepare ourselves, the easier it will be to recover from that Maori bloke running over you or to chase after that cheeky winger who got the overlap. Every ounce of training done in the pre-season and off-season pays large dividends in the regular season.
That doesn’t stop the entire process being more painful than an Adam Sandler movie and leave you feeling like you’ve corked your entire body, of course. But I’d rather feel broken now than broken on a Saturday afternoon after the game. Rugby chicks may dig guys with scars and bruises, but I speak for not only myself when I say I’d rather have fewer bruises and the energy to talk after a match.
Now, get out there and go for that run! Season is only two months away!
*Heading into his second year as a player for Palmyra Rugby Union Club in Perth, this weekly blog series is an insight into a young, and new, player’s mind. Names have been omitted for writer’s own safety during tackling drills.
Next week: Just a matter of trust