As Australian Rules football leagues around the country enter the second half of their season, we had a chat to Collingwood Magpies VFL player and Recruitment Consultant, Sean, about how he keeps his body in peak condition year-round.
Besides playing football, what is your favourite thing to do to keep healthy?
To keep myself fit and healthy, I like running, much more than going to the gym in particular. I actually feel refreshed after going for a run. That’s also my game in footy – I like to do the long-distance running and cover a lot of ground.
What are your running habits – obviously you have football and would train regularly, but outside of that, what is your actual running routine?
Especially during the preseason, I try and run most days. It’s good to mix it up as well, so I’ll do your typical 5–10 km runs and then on other days I like to do hill sprints, or fartlek training. With my version of fartlek training, I run for 50 metres, then I walk for 10 metres and then I jog for 30 metres, so that’s really footy-oriented.
In a game of football you’re not running 5 km flat-out, so I like to mix it up. It shocks your leg muscles – you don’t want to just keep running the same pace the whole time, you want to mix it up. It’s sort of speed training in a way.
You were saying that, during preseason, you like to try and run most days. What does your routine look like during this period?
During preseason, I probably do 2–3 running sessions per week to try and build my endurance. They’re not overly fast runs, it’s more just to build up my ‘tank’, so I can then come to footy training and work on my speed and reaction times by doing lots of short sprints.
I really enjoy running – in addition to the benefits I mentioned before, it’s a good way for me to clear my head and have some ‘me time’.
Do you prefer running anywhere in particular?
I can run most places; however, I’m not a fan of running at ovals – not for long runs at least. It’s just too repetitive for me. I like being able to run past things and take in the sights, which you can’t really do when running around in circles. I find it much more motivating.
Where I live it’s quite hilly as well, and there are a lot of different tracks you can run along to make it worthwhile.
Was it football that got you into running in the first place?
Not at all. I actually started footy quite late – I didn’t begin playing until I was 14 or 15. I did athletics as a kid and a lot of swimming as well, so that that’s where my endurance came from. I then played a little bit of soccer before I made it to footy, so running definitely came before footy. It was something my old man loved doing – basically, I took after him and was quite good at it, so it’s always been an exercise I’ve done.
When I got to high school, everyone was playing Aussie Rules and I wanted to be involved, so that’s where footy started for me.
With running, have you had moments where you’ve felt like you were at your best or worst?
It’s sort of hard to say because obviously I’ve done a lot of running over the years, but I would say the best reflection of this is my performance on game day in footy. A lot of the running I do is to best prepare myself for on-field performance.
I started off playing on the half-back line and then played as an ‘inside’ midfielder, then in my later years at Williamstown I started playing on the wing. As a winger, you do a lot of running up and down the field.
My work over the preseason would prepare me for this, as I knew my endurance would be key. Those years helped me to play at a stronger, more elite level.
With the way the modern game is played, you have to be a good runner because you’re expected to cover around 15 km per game. If your running is not up to scratch, you’re not going to get near the ball and you won’t get the opportunity to play at a high level.
Besides the impact on your football, what do you find to be the greatest benefit of running?
Just feeling good. As I’ve said, it’s my preferred choice of physical activity and I’d much rather go for a run than lift weights in the gym. Obviously, running isn’t for everyone, but I feel so much better after I’ve done some sort of running – whether that’s by way of clearing my head or just knowing I’ve done something good for myself.
I’ve got a mentality where I just want to eat healthy and do some form of exercise each day to keep my body in good shape.
On the topic of eating, is there clear instruction from the football club regarding your diet?
Yeah absolutely, we’ve got dieticians who help us with our goals. People look at dieticians and automatically assume they’re there for weight loss or something like that. That’s not necessarily the case – our dieticians help us with a range of programs.
For some people, they’ll want to put on lean muscle; others are underweight, so the dieticians will help them eat the right foods to reach their ideal playing weight. It all depends on the person and the type of player – some people will need a higher or lower body fat percentage than others to be at their peak performance.
So what would be a standard diet for you during the season?
It often will depend on the day and how close it is to a game. The 48 hours before a game, you’d be looking at getting in a lot of carbohydrates, so a lot of rice, pasta and noodles just to stock up on good carbs and be ready to go for the game.
After a game and on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you’re wanting to get up your energy levels up as you tend to be depleted after a game, so in addition to some carbohydrates, you’re having quite a bit of protein for your muscle recovery. During this period, I would be eating a lot of meat and fish and my snacks would be high in protein, so a lot of nuts etc.
There were times where I was really strict on my diet, but not so much now. You have to be a little flexible when you’re working as well as playing footy. I tend to go through phases – for instance, this week I’ve done my food prep for the entire week, but this is the first time I’ve done this since starting in recruitment back in April.
Just like everyone, sometimes as a footballer you’re really motivated, sometimes you’re not. For me, I’m lucky enough to have support from my dietician, but as long as you set yourself attainable fitness goals, you’ll be on the right track.