Your first time back in the gym after the off-season is never easy, so this week we spoke to London Blitz, Hertfordshire Hurricanes, and GB Lions strength and conditioning coach Fab Gargiulo to get his tips on how to prepare yourself for the season ahead:
Your season finished. Win or lose you should have taken a break, eased off from training both on the field and in the gym.
But that was months ago, and now it’s time to get back into it.
Make no mistake, when you stop training you lose fitness, probably increase body fat, and get weaker. Your sport demands a certain level of cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and positional skill. Given that these will all have dropped off in the off-season, it’s now time to get them back (and make them better than before)!
…But Fab…how do I do this?
Well, here are my Top 5 Tips to getting back into sporting shape:
#1 TURN UP!
Make yourself a personal schedule for when you can go to the gym / work out / attend training…etc. Then (and this is the important part…) STICK TO IT! Write it down, stick in on your fridge / toilet door / wherever you will see it daily. When your motivation drops, you’ll stand a far better chance of succeeding if you make training a positive habit. The first week or two will be the hardest as you adjust - just keep going!
#2 Test and Set Goals
This is all about improving bit by bit. Do some baseline testing and try to make it scientific - i.e. repeatable + reliable. Here are some good examples:
(Remember - Always perform maximal lifts under qualified supervision and build up to a 1 Rep Max)
- Squats: 1 / 3 / 5 / 10 Rep Max (RM)
- Bench press: 1RM + Max Reps @ body weight, or at 60/80/100kg
- Top speed at the 5 / 10 / 40yd dash. (You’ll need someone to help you time yourself)
- Broad jump: Furthest distance in CM
- 4 min run test
- Skipping: 1 min bouts x 3 with 30 secs recovery
Goal setting should be simple - Have an idea of where you want to be at the start of the season, and each time you test aim for a better score than last time!
#3 Work hard & vary your workouts
Just ‘turning up’ to the gym / track / training won’t make you any better. Giving 100% of what you can will! This is where your schedule comes into full effect. If you truly believe that you can go hard and give 100% at 5pm on a Friday - get it in your plan. If not, then don’t! Make sure you also vary your workouts - not only will it allow you to work on several areas of fitness, more importantly it will keep you from getting bored and keep your motivation high.
#4 Eat right
It seems cliched but you wouldn’t put mangy old diesel in a Ferrari, would you? If you’re looking to improve your sporting performance / lose body fat / look better in all those muscle selfies you’ve been taking, then what you put in your body is just as important (if not more so) than training.
A simple easy-to-stick-to plan is an absolute must. Only eat REAL foods - those which came from the ground or had a face on them, and haven’t been altered before landing on your plate. Meat. Fish. Vegetables. Fruit. Green leaves. Nuts. Seeds. Berries. Natural oils. Water. Rice. Potatoes. Keep it simple and aim for an overall balance of 40% protein + 40% carbs + 20% fat.
Lastly, when you do get back into training properly, you will need to help yourself recover after each bout of exercise in order to be able to give 100% each time.
Here are 5 quick & easy tips:
- Pre-warm-up: Before you exercise, spend 10 mins warming up. 5 mins on the foam roller + 3 mins dynamic stretching + 2 mins heart-rate raiser.
- Hydrate: Drink (sip) water throughout exercise. Aim for 300-600mls/hr as comfortable + 500-1,000 ml post-exercise. Water and electrolytes are best. Personally I’m a fan of Lucozade Lite.
- Stretch: 10 mins all major muscle groups after each training session. 30 sec holds of each stretch
- Eat: Within 2hrs have a healthy, natural, calorie-dense meal with a balance of 4 carbs : 1 protein (for post-cardio) or 2 carbs : 1 protein (for post-strength training)
- Sleep: Most important part of recovery. Aim for 7-8hrs / night of uninterrupted sleep. If you can, nap post exercise.
Good luck and I’ll see you on the field for pre-season!