The six toughest running drills in pre-season GAA training
"We're going running"
The three last words you never want to hear your trainer say. The three words they always say at the end of a January session.
They're determined to sweat the beer, the turkey sandwiches and the Celebrations out of you. To do that, they're going to dog you, they're going to run the proverbial rubbish out of you, and Jesus, you're going to suffer.
You know it's coming, but you still convince yourself they might give you a reprieve. You know you should do it, you know you have to do it, but you'd still do anything to miss it.
Jackie Tyrrell recalled a classic experience in his book, 'The Warrior's Code.'
Davy Fitzgerald was running his LIT Fitzgibbon team ragged in the woods in Limerick. Tyrrell's housemate was suffering more than most, and he decided to call it a day and pulled up in the middle of one of the runs.
Like any effective dodger, nobody saw him leave the session.
The next Tyrrell saw of him was when he made it back to the apartment. The player was sprawled out on the couch, half asleep and with a half eaten chocolate cake on the table beside him.
This game can drive you to destruction.
Here are the drills that will leave you longing for a kip and a slice of log.
1. Figure of 8s
Hell on earth. Think of your worst nightmare. Now add in muck, wind, rain, soggy pitches and a figure of eight (death).
You'll be out on your feet after one minute of a figure of 8 running session, most managers will make you go for five or even ten, depending on their mood.
It's usually 30 seconds fast running followed by 30 seconds jogging or jog the straights, sprint the diagonals. Whatever way you do it, it's going to make bits of you.
The worst part is when you catch your breath and regain composure - then you just have to go and do it all again. And again.
2. Staggered suicides
That's because you're slogging through the filth. You're sliding every time you turn, and you're turning every five seconds. The worst of all, you're slipping on your own chunks of ground.
Then you've to get the head up and pump it out to the 21, and then you're turning back to the endline again.
Some managers employ a 60-second run, followed by 50, 40, 30 , 20 and then 10. You think you're done, and then you've to build it all up again.
And on your break you've to roar on your teammates while you don't even have the gas to open your mouth.
A mudbath. A bloodbath.
They never get old, they never get any easier. Mick O'Dwyer used to task his players with gruelling long distance runs. He knew it was of no real benefit for them but he just wanted to see them suffer and he wanted to see who among them would respond to the suffering.
It's a character builder, it's a monotonous killer.
You think you're done. Go again.
And there's always that one skinny teammate who can run for days.
Sprinting diagonally from each flag on the 14, 21, 45 and 65 the full length of the pitch.
Again, it's the turn that kills you. It's the race to the first flag that kills you. It's the sprinting that kills you. It's daylight murder.
As Jose Mourinho once said, 'I prefer not to speak.'
5. Tyre runs
Has your coach ever brought a load of tyres with him to training and dumped them on the endline?
Has he ever told you this one will be tough?
Has he ever told you to run from one endline to the other, while racing a teammate, with a tyre in hand and then passing it on to the next man in the line?
Were the tyres ever not filled with dirty water that drowned your legs with every step and clipped your calves at the same time?
It's a relay. It's a race. It's a low key killer.
6. Interval runs
Nothing fun about these. It could be 400 metres, it could be 200 metres, but a minute never goes as quick as your recovery for the next one.
Your heart is racing, your legs are jelly, your chest is giving up and your head is telling you to walk into the car park there and just drive home.
Give us a break, and some chocolate cake.