Duane Heath

Getting 'rugby fit' is a pain

2004-05-28 07:27

Cape Town - All the talk this week of the pooped Springbok pros failing fitness tests brought back a lot of painful memories for me - and, true to form, it was a Kiwi who was responsible for the damage.

Nathan Hore is your average rugby player from New Zealand: he's self-confident, superbly fit, always scoring - and has some or other grandfather or second cousin's uncle who played for the All Blacks (okay, in this case, grandad Hore did actually play Test footy).

But it was two years ago, as part of a sevens team preparing for a tournament in Copenhagen, Denmark of all places, that I came to realise just how wide the gulf is between professional attitudes in this country, and those in other parts of the world.

And it took a total amateur to make me realise it.

Don't let me fool you for a second: this wasn't a serious tournament by any stretch of the imagination. Teams from across the world make an annual pilgrimage to play in the Scandinavian Sevens, and you get to pit yourself against some seriously good players (we felt the collective brunt of a bunch of Fijians that year). But in all honesty, the winner's trophy plays second fiddle to the piss-up in the pub afterwards.

But none of this mattered to Nathan. He wanted our side, made up of journeymen from SA, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the USA, and called the Uglies, to challenge the top dogs.

Call it being in the wrong place at the right time, but before I knew it, I'd been roped into his fitness scheme from hell.

Today, when I look back at those six weeks of soreness, attached to the end of our hectic club season (which included playoffs), it never fails to amaze me how, no matter how "rugby-fit" we thought we were, our bodies always squeezed out just a little more.

Earlier this week, I dug up my old training diary from those days spent with Nathan, and got exhausted just reading through the regimen he brought over from Auckland.

From Monday June 17, 2002 to Friday July 26, 2002, for forty days, I found out just how seriously our Antipodean foes take their fitness training. Here are some extracts:

Mon 17/6 to Sun 23/6 Gym: back, deadlifts. Fitness test: 10-minute bleep test; 6x60m shuttle sprints. Gym session: Olympics lifts (clean & jerk), upper body. Interval run: 11 min of 30 sec at 75%, 30 sec jog. Gym session: legs. Team training: Tuesday, Thursday.

Mon 24/6 to Sun 30/6 Gym: bench press, shoulders. Interval run: 12 min of 30 sec at 80%, 30 sec jog. Gym: deadlift, back, arms. Anaerobic lactate-stacking runs, 2 sets of five 1-minute sprints at 80% followed by 30 sec rest. Gym: bench press, shoulders. Team training: Tuesday, Thursday.

Mon 1/7 to Sun 7/7 Gym: legs, back. Lactate-stacking run: 12 30-second sprints, 15 sec jog in between. Another lactate-stacking session: 15 reps of 30 sec sprints alternated with 15 sec jog. Team training: Tuesday, Thursday.

Mon 8/7 to Sun 14/7 Run: 30 min aerobic run. Gym: Strength tests in bench press, power clean, clean & press. Anaerobic track work: phosphagen sprints (between 3-5 sec) over 30m, 2-3 sets of 6 reps. 400m time-trial to finish. Gym: leg strength test. Gym: back and deadlifts. Speed-endurance test on track. Team training: Tuesday, Thursday.

Mon 15/7 to Sun 21/7 Run: aerobic 1:1, 10 sets of 1 min at 80%, 1 min jog. Gym: bench press, shoulders. Gym: back, pull-up test. Functional anaerobic gym work: repeated speed 4-8 sec, 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps with punchbag, clap press-ups, squat thrusts. Anaerobic track work: phosphagen sprints (3-5 sec) over 40m and 30m, 150m time-trial, stair sprints, plyometrics. Gym: legs, Olympic lifts, core exercises. Speed test on track. Team training: Tuesday, Thursday.

Mon 22/7 to Fri 26/7 Gym: power cleans, clean & presses. Team training: Tuesday, Thursday. Rest and carbo-load.

Phew! Could this be the reason the Kiwis whip our butts each year?

Send Duane your thoughts.

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