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Getting back into shape for pre-season training

A good pre-season can make a big difference to how you perform in the months that follow. The emphasis should be on enjoyment, strength and conditioning and basic skills. Here are my top tips for how to prepare for the challenges which lie ahead.

Diet and rest
Start by eating healthily and getting enough kip at night – this is as important as the training you’ll be doing. Don’t skip breakfast but do vary what you eat from cereals, porridge and wholemeal toast to smoothies, yoghurts and bananas to make sure you begin the day the right way. Snack healthily, too, as you’ll need the extra energy for those first workouts! A slice of fruit loaf, crackers and cottage cheese, a low fat custard pot or sugar free jelly may help you stop reaching for those crisps or biscuits. For your evening meal think ‘lean cuisine’ as you’re in training mode now.

Start steadily
If you’ve had an off-season or indulged a little too much on holiday then it’s important to ease your way back to fitness. In week one just go for a steady run and fit in two sports sessions, such as swimming, cycling or on a rowing machine, which are all lower impact activities. There will be plenty of time for interval training, shuttle runs and drills later. Swimming is highly recommended as it’s the only discipline in which slowing down makes you go faster. Calm your body, relax your mind and time your strokes and you’ll cut your length times without putting in more effort. If you’re aching from another session it’s also a great way to flush out lactic acid while stretching the muscles that are suffering from tightness.

Take it steady! Build up your fitness level one step at a time

Try something new
You won’t need a ball (round or oval) for a few weeks as we’re just trying to build base fitness at this stage so why not try something fun and new? You could go to an activity, yoga or pilates class which are great for core strength. Gym membership contracts are largely a thing of the past so you can join in for a month or even pay-as-you-go. Why not check out the outdoor gym in Wilton Park or grab a few mates and book the five-a-side pitch there ? Or you could register for Parkrun? It’s a 5K course and takes place at 9am every Saturday in Melton Country Park ( It’s inclusive rather than competitive and free.

Follow the 10 per cent rule
To avoid over-training do not increase weight, training activity, mileage or pace by more than 10 per cent a week. This prevents stressing the body beyond capacity by allowing it to rest, rebuild and recover. Keep a check on intensity levels and let fitness and endurance improve over time. Treat this as the time to get into good habits in terms of perfecting your dynamic warm-up and post-exercise static stretching routines. Common dynamic exercises include a slow jog with high knees, skipping, butt kicks and reaching to toes, lunges with twist, walking quad stretch and crawling calf stretch. Cooling down properly has been proven to be highly beneficial in helping muscle recovery. And remember to hydrate properly and wear sunscreen.

The aim of all this is to arrive at those first training sessions of the season in reasonable shape ready to enjoy basic drills with the ball and work on your first touch. If you are under-prepared you will become easily fatigued, and if you have over-trained you’ll be more prone to injury. Striking the right balance isn’t easy but get it right and your coach will take notice!

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