Gerard O'Kane

GERARD O’KANE: Keeping mind and body fresh

THE month of December is upon us and WhatsApp groups up and down the country will be raging hot with messages of plans and organisation of the new season ahead.

For some this will be a welcome notification as the urge to get back out onto the field and right the wrongs from last season will be a massive incentive. For others, the notifications on the WhatsApp group might be turned off and the pull of the evening World Cup games (which I have to say I am quite enjoying) are too much.

Bear in mind these are club players I am talking about and not the county players. Those involved in the county season were officially back last week, but no doubt they will have been working away behind the scenes in a bid to come back in what they term as ‘decent shape’.  Along the way there has to be a happy medium somewhere. In today’s games, players for both club and county rarely take any time off completely. This can be seen as a positive, in that once the season has officially ended, players see fitness and conditioning as very much a lifestyle choice.

The fitness industry has taken hold across Ireland in the last 20-plus years and going to the gym two to three nights a week is now seen as recreational and social, and people generally see the health and well-being benefits of it.

However, there is a difference between that and the organised group sessions which can sometimes be seen as a bore at this time of the year.

Most managers, or those with any common sense, will recognise all of this and give players enough time and space to enjoy the off season under no pressure, especially those who maybe had a longer season and are not long finished.

The tricky part here is  managers who are newly appointed to a club set-up feel there is an expectation to get started straight away. They might do it to show professionalism and that they are on the ball. It might be a case of looking down the road and if surrounding clubs are started, players themselves get itchy feet and feel they are maybe left behind so quite often the pressure can come from the players themselves.

It should not be lost on everyone that with the split season, most serious football does not start in most counties until the summer. This was the way of it in Derry the last two years anyway, it was the start of July really before anything of note took place.

It can be a long time from now to July and depending on each player’s circumstances with work, family or injury, big decisions don’t need to be made in the first week of December.

From experience, my advice would be to switch off where possible. I realise this is not possible for everyone, therefore going to the gym a few nights a week is a good idea, but maybe try something a little different for yourself.

There will be plenty of time for structured S&C so it will do your body no harm to ‘shock’ it every once in a while. Change the session up for yourself or even step into a class if there is one available.  While this will not work for everyone, I find for me it is helpful as having been at the coalface for over 20 years it does take different ways to keep it fresh.

As for those lads in the county, this is a completely different mindset altogether and for a lot, that’s what sets county players apart. They are the elite within each county and for the most part, they have the full 12 month mindset of having to be the best and kicking on and reaching their peak.

This can also be difficult and trying to be at your best for the entire year is exhausting, both mentally and physically.

They will know their own bodies and what works for them and at this stage they will have figured out the best way for them to peak at the appropriate times. However, even they have to enjoy some sort of downtime to allow them to switch off.

Jarlath Burns has recently stated in his bid to become An Uachtarán that he is actively proposing a curtailment of the training county teams do while in the same household he has a son who is probably telling him that he does not wants a curtailment, that he wants to train as close to a professional as possible.

Again, this all comes down to mindset with Jarly Óg. He is in the head space that every day he wants to get better and achieve gains somewhere along the line.

The one issue that I see with this is the possible lifespan of a county player. It will maybe mean lads playing county for five or six years, flat out until that are maybe exhausted instead of a prolonged 10-year county career.

There will be negatives and positives for this along the way and it remains to be seen if one is better than the other.

My advice as someone who has been through it all before it that balance is key to sustainability and longevity.

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