Upon receiving the invitation to go along to Pennyhill Park and take part in an England training session, I envisaged a leisurely afternoon involving perhaps a morsel of fitness and plenty of chucking the ball around. Sign me up, I thought. Lucozade and the RFU had other ideas.
Having arrived a tad late and hobbled out to join everyone one boot on, the other in hand, we started the ‘warm-up’ (which I can only assume was named ironically). After about 20 minutes I was unsure if this so-called warm-up had finished and we were into the real session, or if it was still to be stepped up a notch. Either way, I was knackered – not that Dave ‘Tweety’ Silvester, the England strength and conditioning coach and man in charge of the session, seemed to care.
I won’t go through all the gory details, but suffice to say after an hour we were all shattered. During the workout we had been told to make sure we drink only from the bottles assigned to us, which seemed strange at the time but in the end made sense. We were weighed before and after the session, and the amount of fluid we drank during the workout was also measured. From that, the clever people at Lucozade (headed by sports scientist Tess Morris) could work out how much we were sweating, how hard we had worked, and all sorts of other technical stuff to do with electrolytes and body salts that I couldn’t begin to fathom.
It was fascinating, however, to experience what the players go through. Billy Twelvetrees told me it is fairly typical of what they would do as a squad when they meet up again after a while. “We met up last week and had a bit of a fitness camp – those sorts of sessions we would do twice in a day, and probably the day after as well, just to get the fitness levels back up,” he explains. “It’s short, sharp and intense – just like games are.” Sharp and intense I understood, but it certainly didn’t feel short.
Argentina await England this summer, but lock Joe Launchbury tells me their training does not necessarily vary according to who they are playing. “Training programmes are very individualised as they are,” he explains. “Everyone in the squad has slightly different needs, and you’ll get ready for the game in different ways. The S&C department are very good at realising what you need, and not pigeon-holing you. There’s also a close liaison with your club, and making sure everything fits with what they do. Stuart’s very big on the idea that you’re not just an England player when you’re in camp, you’re an England player for 365 days of the year.”
Gone are the days of pies and pints and in are those of 24-hour hydration and early bedtimes. “Being a professional athlete these days, 24/7 your hydration has to be up there,” says Twelvetrees. “You’re going to bed at 10pm, you’re getting plenty of sleep. Everyone knows their own body and everyone knows what they need to be doing to ensure they’re 100 per cent when they step out onto the pitch.”
Two things struck me most about the day: the amount of behind-the-scenes analysis that goes on in professional sport, and the levels of fitness that these boys operate at. When watching a game on television, or from the stands, it is impossible to fathom how much time and effort goes into training, and not just from the players but from all the support staff who measure their performance and help them improve. And if you, like me, often find yourself watching the props jogging about the pitch, and think to yourself “they can’t be that fit, can they?”, I can now confirm that they are – anyone who has been through that sort of session on a regular basis would have to be.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Joe Launchbury and Billy Twelvetrees are representing England Rugby, who are fuelled by Lucozade Sport. Lucozade Sport Fuels and Hydrates you better than water. For more information visit www.lucozadesport.com