Last Summer I was lucky enough to join the nations favorite uncle, the one and only Harry Redknapp in re assembling a team of England football legends and getting them back in shape for one last job – redemption against Germany!
David Seaman, Mark Chamberlain, Ray Parlour, Lee Sharpe, Mark Wright, Steve Howey, Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock, Rob Lee, Paul Merson, John Barnes, Chris Waddle, Matt Le Tissier and Robbie Fowler is a line up that in their heyday would have given any team in the world a run for their money – and speaking of money – what price would they all be in todays market!?
12 weeks to get a team of retired superstars back to match fitness is a whole different kind of challenge. – this couldn’t be treated as a football focused strength and conditioning project, nor could it be treated as a celebrity get fit challenge.
Given these players were all now retired, they had for the most part been spending the intervening years making up for the lost time with their families – playing golf, and enjoying life (some a little more than others!), as well as dealing with the knocks and niggles to backs knees and ankles that now they were a little less active than before – started to creep up on them.
The plans therefore – had to deal with the inevitable weight loss element, as well as keeping in mind these guys didn’t just need a nice ‘before and after’ pic, but also to get through 90 mins of football against their arch rivals, in front of a full stadium, and the ITV cameras.
Taking on a whole team’s worth of Personal Training clients all based in different parts of the country meant that encouraging the players to make sustainable lifestyle changes was going to be the way forward on the weightloss, and creating programs that they could (and most importantly would) follow on the days that I couldn’t get to them. The filming schedule meant that I would see the players as a group once a week, but that day had to also include their ball work with Harry, keeping on mind the end goal of being able to play a game – that is the priority.
I have always maintained that the most important consideration in any training program – regardless of the goal – is adherence. Consistency is key. So creating sustainable changes to the players diet and exercise regime was my goal – going too hard too early and being overly draconian about all the things you now ‘cant’ do is a sure fire way to make a task seem alien, impossible, and unobtainable.
A very rigid approach to diet and exercise can mean that the moment real life gets in the way (and it will, especially as a mid 40s retired sportsmen with a couple of kids to look after), the tendency is then to throw the whole thing out of the window and write it off as out of reach.
Bite size (pun absolutely intended) sustainable changes meant that as the 12 weeks passed by we could gradually get more and more strict on the both the diet and the exercise. Tips such as ensuring the players all ate breakfast then became telling them exactly what to have for breakfast. Weight supported conditioning sessions on a bike initially given to protect some vulnerable hips and knees – made way for hill sprints, box jumps and agility drills. We could do this because we had built a solid platform of strength and conditioning – but also to be brutally honest because some of the players who were initially carrying a bit too much extra weight now were not – and the impact to their joints was now placing them at far less risk.
I’m not giving too much away to say we had some incredible transformations with the players – with fat loss in some cases in excess of 10kg and increases in fitness testing by up to 50%. However, for me the greatest outcome was being able to see the players, some of whom adorned my bedroom wall in my teenage years, do what they love to do one last time. Friendships and rivalries were re-ignited, and I got to work alongside probably the nicest man in sport.