Posted April 27, 2016 by jeellison in Fitness

Training in the off-season

training off season
training off season

The similarities between the fitness requirements of many team sports are similar and, whether you play rugby, football, hockey, basketball, netball or any fast-moving sport,  many fitness elements overlap.

For example:

  • As a games player you need the following qualities:

Speed, endurance, strength, agility, balance, power and vision.

  • And, like most team sport players, you will end the season needing plenty of recuperation, rehabilitation and rest before you are ready to face the new season. This involves time away from your sport, injury treatment, and doing other activities.


An unbalanced approach

Team players suffer a lot of injuries because they often run in an unbalanced way; if you are a hockey player you carry a hockey stick for a minimum of 70 minutes. Every time you dribble the ball, you are running while bent low to the right; if you are chasing the ball you are bent low and forwards. If you are a rugby player, you will quite often be running off balance because you are carrying a ball; sometimes a rugby player is running with an opponent’s arm around his or her waist, leg or arm, sometimes a rugby player has to run through a wall of human bodies. A basketball player is bent to the right or the left as he or she dribbles the ball. Whatever the reason, the body is being put under extreme stress and asked to move in a biomechanically unsound way.

Different fitness demands

There are also many demands on how you run. Playing team sport is no one-paced jog around a sports field. Most team sports involve rapid change of pace, quick changes in direction and the need for agile footwork. Depending upon the length of game, most team sports will involve the players running between 5-12 kilometres during a game. A footballer might run up to 10 kilometres in a game, a hockey midfielder will run an average of 10-11 kilometres during a game while a rugby back will run between 8-10 kilometres during a game.

Take a break

Planning a training regime to ensure that you are fit and fast, but also strong and flexible enough to avoid injury calls for a careful balance in your training sessions. The first few weeks after the season ends should incorporate gentle training and plenty of recuperation. Yoga, Pilates, swimming, walking, climbing, cycling – any activity that avoids the ruck and maul of physical team sports. Once your body has recovered, then it is time to start preparing for the next season.

What follows is a pyramid training running session that aims to develop endurance and speed for team sport players. While it is part of a pre-season training programme, it can also be used by anyone looking for a fresh training idea, that will build speed and endurance.

5 minute warm-up

2 min moderate intensity, 2 min low intensity

30 sec high intensity, 30 sec low intensity (repeat this three times)

10 sec flat out, 90 sec low intensity (repeat six times)

30 sec high intensity, 30 sec low intensity (repeat three times)

2 min moderate intensity, 2 min low intensity

10 sec flat out, 90 sec low intensity (repeat six times)

5 min cool-down

As a guide to intensity levels, the warm up should gradually increase in intensity until your heart rate is raised and you are lightly sweating. The cool down should gradually decrease in intensity until your heart rate and breathing has returned to normal.

Low intensity means you can carry on with a conversation as you are running; moderate intensity means that you are running at a pace that means you can just about answer with short sentences and high intensity or flat out means you cannot speak as you are running.


James is a NASM personal trainer living in Derby who loves to use his martial arts experience to help people to get fit, strong and achieve their goals. Based in the Midlands James started boxing as a child, moved on to Thai boxing during his teens and now in his (early) 30's loves to mix it all up with MMA. His ambition is to build his own cob house in the mountains where he can train, climb and generally just mess about.