Sunday, 27 July 2014

Week 5.

Internship Life.
Week 5.
21.7.14 - 25.7.14.

This week was absolutely mental! I needed to get that out there and off my chest to start. There have been several different schedules being worked through all at the same time, so mentally and physically this week has been very draining and challenging, but brilliant at the same time.
There was the schedule for the players who had been back for the duration, a slightly different schedule for the Academy players (just to stop over-crowding of training areas - mostly in slots such as weights/therapy), a separate schedule for the EPDG, and then we also had the returning players this week as well - those players who had been in New Zealand with England Senior team, and also 2 players back from England Under 20 World Cup success.
With the returning players, they were put on a schedule similar to the main group, but they had slightly different training outcomes as they were coming off a 4-week break, so they were doing different weights sessions, conditioning sessions etc.

So this made for a very interesting week. Everyday we would have our morning meeting, then within a few hours something would have changed and the whole plan would change. It's now very clear why S&C teams are so large in Elite level sport because without the amount of coaches in our team we would have been very stretched for some sessions.

It's also been a very interesting week in the sense that it's good to see the difference between those regular squad players, and those who are involved with England. Also, even between those involved with England themselves. For instance, the England players went through a very similar week to the original returnees 4 weeks ago. So it's been awesome to gauge the difference in caliber by seeing them do the exact same sessions and see how they react to it and how they continue throughout the week.
So on the Monday, the returnees had a conditioning session which I got to be involved with which was awesome! And it's pretty impressive to see how these guys can be clearly in pain by working so hard, but not even slowing down, no complaining or anything. That seems the difference, they just do every little thing to the best of their ability.
On Friday they finished the week with the Prowler challenge that the other group have now done twice, and again - some of them just seem a cut above. Even within the England group you could see a difference between the more seasoned internationals and those who were new to the EPS. Two players who play similar positions both took part in this, and as part of the same team. One has a fairly good amount of international experience, the other not a lot, and the difference between the two on this challenge showed a lot and I think it's a credit to the England coaching structure at the moment to the culture that they are creating.

There was also an "Adidas Launch" this week. This was basically a big Media event with the players and coaches, along with Adidas, to launch the new partnership between Quins and Adidas. I didn't get to sit in on the event itself, I was busy inputting data - much more interesting ... but there was also a BBQ afterwards which was good. I took plenty of food home with me which is always a bonus. They had on show all the new Adidas boots for the season, and I believe the new jersey got unveiled (but I'm not 100% on this one).

I got my hands on a pair of Adidas Predators from the club as part of my kit allowance. They're very nice, and happen to be my first pair of Predators so I'm pretty chuffed. I tried them on, and having fat feet I often struggle with Adidas, and these seem no different. They're definitely going to take a lot of stretching out before they become anything close to comfortable. But when they do, I'll be showing them off as much as possible as they're damn flashy as far as boots go.
Luckily I got given the mostly black and white pair, which I'm very happy about as I'm quite old fashioned with regards rugby boots and have only ever owned black boots - so this trend continues.

On Wednesday the players took part in a Swimming Challenge that my boss called "The Great London Swim". It sounded really good, and the 2 or so minutes of it I got to watch looked cool, but I didn't get to see it all. In all honesty I was pretty annoyed about that as I was really interested in watching it. But not the end of the World eh, you win some and lose some.

What else what happened this week ... Oh yeah! Rugby started!
Now that sentence may not seem genuine, but I almost actually forgot to mention that rugby training was back in the schedule as of Thursday this week. You can tell it's been a long week now right?

The atmosphere of the squad was totally different on Thursday morning, it was similar to how it was over those first few days back in week 1. The players all seemed excited to be back into rugby training, which is great to see. I've always wondered how players would respond to it as it is their paid job, but they all genuinely live to play rugby.
The training itself was mostly covering shapes and patterns that they are looking to bring in this year - obviously I can't into detail on any of this - but what really impressed me is just the attention to detail and the sheer quality of all the players. At one point I kept my eyes on one of the most high profile Quins players, one who has fewer international caps than he deserves because of a certain superstar in his Homeland, and his skill level for the first session back is just incredible. I know these guys are top level for a reason, but I was expecting things to be a little rusty, but these guys simply just flick a switch and it's rugby time. It's incredibly impressive.
I'm genuinely looking forward to watching more of these sessions and seeing the whole team come together and have a successful season.
My role in these sessions is mostly to hand out and collect GPS units and HR, and then also to play the role of Bobby Boucher A.K.A The Waterboy!!! The interns are in charge of supplying water during any breaks in training - which this week when it's been absolutely scorching - has been very frequent. Gives me a chance to have a listen in on the conversations going on in the huddles and hearing the opinions of the coaches and players.

So that sums up this week, and I'm going to finish off by saying this ...

It's going to be a damn good season!

'Til Next Week Folks

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Week 4 - 14.7.14-18.7.14

Internship Life.
Week 4. 14.7.14 - 18.7.14

The main squad had a week of this week, which meant that it was a lot quieter from my point of view. I must admit it has been a relief to have a bit of an off-week as it is definitely tiring. I love it to pieces, every day, but it is definitely draining. So to get a week where the pressure was off a little bit, and it was a lot more relaxed, came as a bonus.

As the main squad were off, the week was used mostly for work with the Elite Player Development Group (EPDG). This had all been planned by Tim a.k.a. Slim as he is head of S&C for these groups. So it was treated as a sort of mini-camp for these players.
The ages ranged from high school kids of maybe 14-16, to Sixth Form and College kids of maybe 17.
I'm not entirely sure of the ages to be fair so I'm just guesstimating.
They were split into two different groups - the Senior EPDG (older group), and Junior EPDG (younger). The senior group often new what is was they were being asked to do as they had been involved before, whereas the juniors were very green and needed a lot more technical work.

Throughout the week they had several sessions including sprint work, jumps, throws, weights, therapy (this was new to a lot of them so a good chance to give them advice on how to look after niggly injuries), swimming as well as quite a lot of rugby work with the coaches.

It was quite interesting from my point of view to be involved this week as it was good to see how Slim does things differently with EPDG as opposed to how he works with Senior squad, and also the Academy boys.

It was also a chance to work more one-to-one with some of the Senior squad lads, those who were still recovering from injury. So for instance this week I worked with George Robson, Rob Buchanon & George Merrick. We also had Ugo, Danny Care, Tom Casson, Kyle Sinkler & Tom Williams around this week. It was good because it was such a nice relaxed atmosphere and the guys all seemed to be enjoying their training which is good to see.

So next week is going to be a big week - we get all the returning England Players back into the fray. So it's going to packed full of all the players, I'm imagining it will be pretty tiring and hectic but I can't wait. Should be good having the entire squad back together.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Week 3. 7.7.14 - 11.7.13

Final week of the first phase of pre-season is now done. The majority of the players have now got a week off scheduled training, only those in rehab and the EPDG guys are involved in organised activity throughout the next week.

Monday we had a squad trip to the GSK Human Performance Lab in Brentford. As Harlequins are now sponsored by Maxi Nutrition, who are owned by GSK, we were able to use their fantastic facilities to do some physical testing.
This place was one of the most hi-tech labs I've seen personally, and it had a lot of different equipment available to use to find out the capabilities of the players.
The players underwent a BodPod which analyses body fat etc, Cognitive Assessment, depth perception, isometric strength testing for several body parts, dynamic strength testing, and lactate testing.
I was involved in the lactate testing. I was working in a tandem with Gaz helping him set up the Lactate Pro in between each use, timing the work periods etc. It was really interesting for me as I haven't done any of this type of stuff since University, so it was a nice refresher and a way for me to re-cap things I hadn't used in a long time.
It was a long old day on Monday, I think from start to finish I was out of the house for 12 hours. But it was definitely worth it as I got to experience this awesome lab. Oh I also got shown in an official Harlequins tweet photo haha. Trouble is I was eating when they took it, but hey ho. Good publicity right?

Tuesday we were back to normal at SSP. But the day started off a little different with a swimming session. This was the first one of this pre-season, and it was interesting to see who was good at swimming and who wasn't. It was mostly just a way to help loosen off their bodies whilst getting a bit of a workout in.
It's good to change up the stimulus, especially for professional sports people as the same training day in and day out can get very monotonous. Cliff and Bots smashed the underwater swim challenge to finish, doing a length underwater, turning still submerged, then returning half way back for Cliff and about three quarters for Bots. Pretty impressive.
The rest of the day was fairly standard with some weights and yoga to finish the day.

The rest of the week again continued fairly standard with a mix of therapy, weights, running, off feet conditioning, speed, skills and yoga.
On Thursday, Dunny (David Dunne - @Dunne_Nutrition) did a presentation on Nutrition for the players. This covered simple things like the amount of calories they should be taking in, and through what Macro-nutrient sources. I think this was important for the players as they each have their own ideals that they are looking to hit and it's good to individualize things.

On Friday they finished the week with another conditioning challenge. It was that damn prowler again! This thing is beginning to break people, and not just me! This week the coaches changed it, they worked in teams of 3 rather than teams of 4. And they also got more specific with the amount of weight being used on the prowler for players of different weights. I.e. the big guys like Lambo and Fridge had heavier than the small guys like Linds.
The groups being down to 3 made it more interesting as the players had less rest between reps, and some of them struggled a lot on the final few reps. But it was good to see the whole squad getting behind each other and pushing each other through a tough session.
I got a bit more air-time from this as I walked alongside Chuckles during his final push as he was struggling and Linds and Colls caught it on video and chucked it on Instagram. So I can be seen strutting next to a struggling Giraffe on ice.

If you want to see some photos of the trip to GSK-HPL then check out my Instagram.
It also has some photos from the prowler session.
And most importantly - Stay up to date with "#DickWatch" on instagram and twitter. Basically one of the other interns is called Richie Steele - so he is now Dick Steele. Obviously. So I decided to sneakily take some snaps of him unknowingly, and chuck them online. So I want to get #DickWatch trending.
Instagram: @baby_rhino
Twitter: @nitman89

Next week I'm going to be in and out of SSP a little, as there is no major training for the squad, but the other interns and I will be going in to assist Bish with rehab players, and also help Slim and Ed with their EPDG Mini-Camp. Should be a good chance to coach some younger players and see what Slim is looking for from them physically. All part of the learning experience.

Thank you for reading.


Saturday, 5 July 2014

Week 2

Internship Life
Week 2 - 30.06.14 - 04.07.14

This week has been fantastic - again. Everything has started to settle down with the squad guys who were around for the first week, and we also had a few more players around - those who were involved with the England side that played against the Barbarians came back from their break. So a few more numbers were strolling around the training park (and eating all the food).

I've decided now not to break it down day by day like I did last week, as essentially it's a very similar layout day to day apart from that we generally do a higher output day followed by lower output.

The biggest differences this week - the weights have mixed up a little bit. We've had more of an upper/lower structure making use of the big exercises such as power cleans, squats, bench press etc. The guys also seem very settled into their routine which is always nice.
Also for the players who it was their second week they had a higher amount of total mileage from their running sessions, and increased work rate on their off feet conditioning using watt bikes, rowers and cross trainers.

We did a speed session on Wednesday using the speed gates, and also had one of the SSP Staff use his high-motion camera to analyse the players running styles. We found out some cool info from that on Friday when he said that Tom Williams' 3rd step foot contact time was quicker than any of his sub 10.2second sprinters from the GB Sprint team! That's damn impressive!

I think one of the biggest bonuses for me this week has been that I have been given my own groups in the weights sessions. I have been in control of guys like Paul Doran-Jones, Charlie Matthews, Sam Twomey, Karl Dickson, Ugo Money, Jordan Turner-Hall and many others too. It's pretty cool to be given this opportunity, especially so early. Shows that the coaches have faith in us as interns to do things right, and it's good to get to know the guys and build a rapport.
I've also been able to do more one-on-one sessions in terms of conditioning, similarly to last week, which is again pretty cool. Gives you a chance to get to know the guys.

On that note - it's been pretty cool that some of the players are really trying to spend the time to get to know us as interns, as well as us getting to know them. Considering we're around them a lot of the time and for the whole year, I think they're just trying to get know us so we have things to talk about, and things they can pick apart to give us banter for.
The banter towards me has started now that they've decided I look like John C. Reilly from Step Brothers. Except the curly mop I can actually see their point - unfortunately.

Picked up a couple more pieces of stash this week - a new zip up hoodie, a baseball cap, and a beanie. I think my boots may be coming soon as some of the players started receiving their new Adidas boots on Friday so looking forward to getting my hands on them.

I was hoping to get a chance to take part in Hot Yoga this week, but we only did it once and we all had a lot of other bits to get done so I didn't get to. Hopefully next week.

I said in my last blogs that it is hard work, and pretty intense, and it is starting to show now as on Wednesday of week 1 I weighed in at 117.8kg, and Friday of week 2 I was 116.0. And my strength is still ok so I'm hoping that it is fat slowly disappearing. I would be very happy of this was the case because if you know me - you know I could do with dropping a few. If my strength continues to rise, and bodyweight drops, then I will be chuffed. I think it's a mixture of the hard graft, and also the food we eat. I get to eat the meals the players get, and it is fantastic food - all healthy choices and tasty. The kitchen at SSP do a great job taking care of these guys.

Ok so I think that pretty much sums up this week. It's taken another notch up in intensity, another batch of players in, and I am still just loving life. Everyday I get home knackered but with a smile on my face. It's incredibly cheesy but honestly - I don't care! I worked hard to get here, and it's been a long time coming so I'm going to gloat and be proud of myself!

Hope you are all enjoying these updates. I will try to keep them specific, and give as much detail as I can without giving stuff away, but I want to keep it interesting too (hence not detailing each day by day anymore).

Til next time - Enjoy!