Thursday, 30 June 2011

Blood, sweat and beers - and yoga

Yoga in the grounds of an immaculately maintained 120-acre estate. Welcome to pre-season training, Bath Rugby style.

The bulk of the Bath squad are now nearing the end of their second week of summer training – and there are still nine weeks to go before the first game of the campaign.

With such a long pre-season stretching ahead of them, the key for the strength and conditioning experts who lead such training is to ensure that a sense of tedium doesn’t creep in.

Flipping tyres, pushing sledges and hitting scrum machines are necessary elements in any pre-season programme – there’s no escaping the hard graft – but they cannot be the only ingredients.

To avert a sense of groundhog day, a few novelties have to be thrown in. On Tuesday afternoon, it was yoga time for some of the squad. Lycra, I believe, was optional.

Not that it’s all been about adopting the lotus and the downward-facing dog at Farleigh House.

Lock Stuart Hooper admitted the squad was, at times, being subjected to a whip- cracking regime of blood, sweat and tears.

“There hasn’t been much blood so far, there’s been a fair amount of sweat and no doubt there’s been a few tears in the evening when people have got home!” he said.

“It’s been hard but then it wouldn’t be a good pre-season if it wasn’t hard.”

The art of combining the nitty gritty with the refreshingly unusual is something Premiership champions Saracens have excelled at of late.

Whether it’s trips to German beer festivals or a couple of days with the Miami Dolphins, the management at Sarries know that a few non-traditional stimuli are needed to keep a squad on its toes, cohesive and hungry.

Bath appreciate this, too. Last season, there were sessions with firefighters at Bristol Airport, pictured, and an afternoon of swinging from trees.

More of this may prove a wise investment. As Sarries have shown, blood, sweat and beers really can work.

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