Following the disappointment of our National League season being suspended, I enjoyed the first couple of weeks recuperating and reflecting on what a season we had at Woking. But after that initial period wore off, I was desperate to get back into football as I was missing the dressing room and adrenaline of match days. In these tough and uncertain times, our mental and physical welfare have never been more important. Stuck in doors day after day is tough for everyone so I feel it’s very important to get outside every day.
From a professional point of view, I do feel it’s impossible to maintain ‘match fitness’. Personally, I feel match fit after five or six full matches in a row. I can sprint easily and readily in matches and recover quickly. As a midfielder, I’m able to close players down with intensity and when we win the ball back burst into the opposition’s box late (to hopefully score goals). This is what match fitness means to me.
So, with us all in isolation, this kind of fitness is just simply not possible. The limited facilities in non-league makes keeping fit hard without matches taking place but with the addition of having to isolate, things have been made harder.
We have seen a huge surge in people running on the roads which has been fantastic to see. 5 km runs have been very popular on social media with everyone showing their times. At Woking, we were set a few challenges to compete with each other over. The first, a 3-mile sprint and the next a much longer 10km run. The competition was good for us players and gave us motivation to build our fitness back up.
However, I don’t feel these long runs are actually successful in preparing players to hit the ground running whenever we go back. I’m sure old school coaches swear by bleep tests, hill runs and trying to mentally test their players, but the game has moved on. Football is a game of repeated, short, sharp sprints. Breaking, turning and stopping and the highest intensity. How can long runs at a constant speed prepare players fully? The simple answer, they don’t.
This isn’t to say long runs are useless. They can build a good base for fitness and a give an individual an idea as where their fitness is at. Small sided games and sharp 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3 drills are what I find the most useful in getting my fitness up when training with Woking. The competitive nature of players will always demand that you run that extra yard.
Of course, right now we are unable to train with others due to isolation. But, a lot of the fitness I’m doing now is with a ball. There’s two reason for this; firstly, it is very tiring and hard on the legs when you are doing fitness with a ball. The concentration on your touches and the smaller stride lengths ensure that your legs work harder than normal. Second of all and more crucially, I find it mentally easier to motivate myself to do fitness when a ball is involved. It’s the joy of the game, the excitement to put on new football boots. It feels easier. Here’s some drills I’ve been doing. Let’s see if you can give them a go:
For strength training, I’ve changed my normal routine as I’m unable to use my gym. Woking striker and personal trainer Jake Hyde showed me how he trains in circuits this season. I’ve been aware of circuit training for years, but I’ve never really tried it. The idea is to complete exercises with high repetitions but with minimum rest. Franky, I’m terrible at it. Put me on a football pitch and I can run for hours, but circuit training has been knackered with minutes.
However, one of my coaching philosophies is to encourage players, children, whoever to not be scared to make mistakes or try things you’re not good at. No one is born a genius at any sport. They work hard, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. It’s a constant process which ensures improvement. So, I’m giving this circuit training a real go. Here’s my last workout if you want to try it:
Find more isolation workouts on Jake Hyde’s Instagram account: @pryde_training
Stay safe everyone!