With the country in lockdown, the Preston North End squad are having to work at home to keep their fitness levels up.
Fitness coach Dr Tom Little spoke to PNE.Com to explain what they would be doing and the different elements involved in ensuring they are in the best possible state when a return date is confirmed.
The players have been given individual programmes of work, although, as Tom explains, it is not straight forward, as there is no timescale at present.
“It is very difficult without working to an end date,” he told PNE.Com. “Coaches from any background, whether it be football – aiming for pre-season – Olympians working towards the games; they have that end game in sight where you are working towards peak conditioning and fitness as well as robustness, so they can withstand what they are going to have to go through in terms of the matches or their events.
“Without a definitive end point it is difficult. We have got some framework, but the start point we were working towards is looking very unlikely.
“We also have to consider during this time, the recuperation time for the players – not just for now, but for when the season does actually end – because that looks like it will have to be shorter.
“So, there are a number of unknowns that we have to weigh up.
“The easiest way to cope with all of that is to give them what we call ‘maintenance programmes’.
“That is enough to keep them fit and robust, but at the same time, they are not training quite as hard, so they are getting fresher all the time as well.
“Your overall fitness is a result of how fit you are and how fatigued you are at the same time. Fitness will naturally drop during this time period, because they are not training as hard, or as frequently, but we are hoping their overall levels won’t reduce too much.
“What we have to really work on is not just staying fit – for example when we give them their off season programmes at the end of the season that is mainly concerned with general fitness and when we get them back in the pre-season they will work on the football fitness – but during this period, because the games period when we return is going to be super ambitious, with maybe two games a week for five or six weeks, we need to keep them football fit. They have to hit the ground running.”
So, what is ‘football fit’?
“To keep football fit there are three elements they have to work on and we have given them the programmes where they have lots of ideas to work on these three different fitness elements and we have also given them a specific programme three times a week,” he continued.
“The first thing they have to work on is their long-term endurance, so that when they come back, they can very quickly be able to play 90 minutes.
“This is more akin to what most people do for long-distance running; steady plodding and they can do that running, biking or a mixture of cardiovascular equipment they might be lucky enough to have at home. Most of the lads will still be able to go outside and run.
“The second point, is that we want them to still be quick and have all their sprint capacities, so we are going to get them to run as fast as they can and also acceleration with twists and turns, which you have a lot of in football.
“And thirdly, and finally, we have what we call high intensity interval work. This is really good for staying fit and increasing fitness, as well and coping with the sustained hard part of a match and we do things here where you are running at around half your maximum speed to 90 per cent of your maximum speed for as long as you can.
“There are lots of things to consider, but all things weighed up, we are trying to cover all bases and get them back to fitness as quickly as possible when we do return.”
We will have more from Tom later in a few days, when he discusses the equally important mental fitness and how the players will get back up to speed ready for the resumption, once a date is set.