Back in the game
PRE-SEASON training is hell.
It’s miserable, it’s boring, it’s a pain in the arse. It leaves you cursing your body, your mind, your team-mates, the management, and the slow driver in front of you as you rush to get to the training pitch on time.
You curse the 40 watt floodlights, the soggy bumpy sandy pitches, the stupid boots that you thought would last you two years at least, the rushed meal that you had at the wrong time before you left the office. Or ate in the car on the way.
You shake your head as all you catch of the big Champions League nights is the pre-match build-up, instead heading out the door on a rainy, windy night as the cat looks at you like you’re a madman.
You try and explain to the girl you’ve been texting for weeks that you can’t meet up Monday because of the gym; Tuesday because of running; Wednesday because of a game; Thursday because of the gym; and Friday because you’ve two training sessions on.
And that, ‘No, you’re not any good’. And, ‘No you won’t start most games when the season starts’ but, ‘No, you can’t miss training tomorrow night either’.
It breaks you down when you think you have every angle sussed. It gives you moments of false hope when you think you’re top dog in the running stakes, only for the next night to be staring at the arse of every other fecker in the squad.
Pre-season is hell. And it’s brilliant.
It’s what I missed most from my time out of the game. That feeling of being absolutely knackered but knowing that you’re getting somewhere. Knowing that you’re doing the right thing, and you’re pushing yourself in a way that I just never found outside of sport.
You genuinely do get sick of it, and curse it every five minutes, but honestly it’s brilliant. Especially now. When I started we did laps. And post-to-posts. And more laps. And a few push-ups. And there might be an odd trip to the gym. (Embarrassingly, once, with Ballina Town, many moons ago I had to get help when I couldn’t lift the barbell up after the third repetition. There were no weights on the bar at the time.)
Things have changed so much for the better now though and it’s great. It allows crooked auld lads like myself a chance to still compete. The training is smarter, it’s player friendly, and position specific in most cases. You still have to get down into the mud and hold a plank for three minutes as the wet seeps into your bones but, you know what, it could be worse.
When you look at the numbers dropping out of sport, and especially GAA around their mid-twenties, it’s extremely worrying.
Training clears my head, gets me out of a rut, and gets me around people, opening myself up. It’s a time where I find I can push myself, and most importantly stay healthy in body and mind.
It has helped my mental-wellbeing an incredible amount, when I often suffered long periods of darkness – coinciding with the time I wasn’t playing or training over the previous decade.
It’s why I’d say to everyone, no matter what it is you’re thinking of doing, go for it, get back into it, and curse every second of it.
But know that it’s been done for the right reason and it’s only benefiting you in the long run as it has already for me.
So yes, pre-season is hell. But it’s bloody brilliant too.
Back in the game