Pre-season preparation builds up at Wast Hills

Players have already been hard-at-work on individual programmes throughout the summer but it's been important for them to have a break as well.

Elliott Woolmer

Blues' fitness coaches have been busy behind the scenes ahead of the players' return to Wast Hills for testing on Saturday.

Players will undergo a variety of health and fitness tests helping to gauge their individual physical benchmarks going into pre-season, which officially begins with a training camp in the Scottish town of Troon between Sunday 27 June and Sunday 4 July.

This coming Saturday marks around seven weeks since the final game of the 2020/21 season and whilst players haven't had fixtures to fulfil in that time, they have been working closely with the Club's fitness staff to ensure standards have been maintained throughout the off-season. 

We caught up with First Team Sport Scientist Elliott Woolmer to gather his thoughts ahead of a busy couple of weeks and to ask how the Club keeps on top of fitness levels during the summer months.

"As is customary, the lads have been given individual programmes throughout the off-season to keep them busy but it's important to remember that because of the pandemic, they've really had 18 months of little-to-no rest between seasons.

"We found it was really important that they had a proper rest this summer, so for around three-and-a-half weeks, they've had complete down-time. Then our progressive programmes came into play which means when they come in on Saturday, they won't be starting from scratch.

"They're professional athletes, so they won't lose all of their fitness in less than a month but testing gives us a good chance to see where everyone is.

"Every single year you get your fair share of injuries or other problems which comes from playing football and the games themselves. That's why the recovery in the weeks the players do get off is so important."

Whilst it has been a little quieter than usual, for the last couple of weeks Wast Hills has been open for optional drop-in sessions for players, if they want to begin building fitness levels back up, or work on something in particular - something Elliott says has proved popular. 

"The gym has been open, coaches have been out on pitches with the lads if they've wanted to - which has been great to see.

"Players have been coming in for those sessions at around five or six at a time but of course, not everyone is local over the summer for example, so their personal programmes have covered absolutely everything we've needed as well.

Pre-season is a time many players have gotten used to in the modern-day game but Blues' First Team Sport Scientist says it wasn't always as well-monitored as it is now.

"Of course it takes a lot longer to gain fitness than it does to lose fitness, everyone really knows that [laughing] but that recovery time is so important - both for them as players but as people too. 

"But gone are the days where you'd have eight weeks off and nothing would be done. Back then, it was about trying to find fitness ready for that first fixture back. Now, the game has moved on so much and we require the lads to be at a certain level at the start of pre-season.

"We'll get testing done and then head to Scotland, where players can expect a lot of fitness work, double/triple sessions with gym activity thrown in the mix as well. Physically, it's demanding, particularly to start off with but it's great to get the lads together for the first time and begin working towards the goals set for the season ahead."