January 8, 2016


Training over the festive period

Well thank God that’s over! Christmas, New Year, and all the gluttony and inactivity associated with it – I don’t think I could take that guilt for another day! Of course it’s nice to be able to switch off, take a break away from the routine of day to day training and spend time with family and friends. Yet come January 1st I was itching to get up the M7 and back into ‘work’ mode.

We finished up training on December 22nd and had a little Christmas gathering afterwards, for team bonding, of course! Given that we had an almost two week break away from the squad environment, a gym and running programme was provided to us by our Strength and Conditioning coach before we headed away. The programme was designed so we had either running or gym – sometimes both – on most days, with a few complete rest days scheduled in too. The main barrier to completing the programme was trying to get gym access over the festive period, particularly on bank holidays. That, and motivation…

Let’s be honest here. It’s Christmas. Everyone is home. Everyone is going out. No-one exercises over Christmas. Sure isn’t that what January is for? Sure amn’t I training all the rest of the year? There is that film that I’ve seen multiple times on the TV. The regular gym is closed. The gates in the GAA pitch might be locked. No-one will know I missed it. It’s raining. Mom said she wouldn’t put a cat out in this weather (as the dog looks forlornly in the door from the storm!), and Mom’s always know best. The dinner is nearly ready I’ll have that and let it digest.  I think I’m coming down with some wicked strain of the female version of the manflu. And now I’ve been mulling over these excuses all day sure it’s nearly dark. Sure no-one will know I skipped it. I’ll make up for it in the nice, fine, dry weather. Sure Sevens rugby isn’t played in this muck anyway? Yes, these thoughts all entered my head at some stage. No-one will know. But I’ll know.

The “cone-cutters”

Having played on various teams, I’ve trained with a multitude of players over the seasons and many can be categorised. The category I found the most frustrating to play with?  The ‘cone-cutters’! Whether it is a difficult conditioning drill, a ball handling drill or a simple warm up exercise, they seem intent on ignoring the brightly coloured marker in front of them and turning, lazily, a metre before it. Every time. These can also be spotted ‘tying’ their un-ripped laces into a nice loose little set of bunny ears…of course that way they can have a little break to tie them again the next time they have to make a covering run. “Sure it’s madness to run with open laces!?” Nothing grinds me more though! It says more about their mental application than anything else. They might have talent in spades, “skills to pay the bills”, but are they working hard to get back on defence with you? ‘Cone-cutters’ don’t train over Christmas. ‘Cone-cutters’ don’t go to the Olympics.


So as Storm Frank was howling outside amplifying the excuses in my head, it struck me, was I going to become one of ‘them’? Quick as a hiccup I was out the door and down to the GAA pitch, wet gear and weighted cones in tow. I like running, but this was less than enjoyable, to put it mildly. A particularly rough session involved starting from my belly (it used to be stomach but metamorphosised over Christmas), running out then back pedalling back to my belly and out again, sharp turn and back to my belly…not ideal on a waterlogged pitch. The mouldies were a poor choice too. It was far from the heat and carnival atmosphere of Dubai less than a month previously.

I thought of my friends, rolling over from the night before, oblivious to my self inflicted torture.  But then again, I wouldn’t trade places with them for the world! No offence lads, but they’ve no hope of competing at these Olympics anyway! It helped to keep in contact with teammates throughout the Christmas period. I’m lucky to live with three of my teammates Elaine, Audrey and Baxter. Regular contact sussing out what sessions they had done, how hard it was etc. helped keep the motivation up too. I wasn’t going to let them outdo me, or lie and say I did something I hadn’t! What did dawn on me, however, is that I don’t know if I’d be in it for the long haul as an individual athlete !


And so, despite the excuses I completed all gym and running sessions. Frank didn’t blow me away nor did I melt in the rain. Most importantly, I hit every cone, as if in belligerence to every ‘cone-cutter’ rolling over in bed.  Does it mean me, or my teammates, deserve a pat on the back? Or a place in Rio?  Not at all. No- one ‘deserves’ anything in sport. I’d imagine the Russians and Spanish and other rivals didn’t exactly take a two week break either. But it means we are still on track, putting ourselves in the best possible position that we can.  The Rio carrot still dangling in the horizon.

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