The typical week of a professional rugby player looks something like this:
Monday morning ? recovery pool session (if you played less than 30 minutes you have to do a fitness session before the pool).
Monday afternoon ? video of last weekend?s game. Weights followed by a short and light field session (lineouts/handling for forwards or passing for backs).
Tuesday morning ? weights and a speed session.
Tuesday afternoon ? rugby (usually something technical ? limited contact).
Wednesday morning ? weights followed by lineouts and scrums for the forwards and attacking plays for the backs (in reality the backs spend more time drinking coffee and talking about the weekend than actually running ? if I had a dollar for every time I said ?I wish I was a back? at training?).
Wednesday afternoon ? video analysis of the opposition for the weekend and then rugby. Usually contact. Without question my least favourite session of the week.
Thursday ? rest.
Friday ? team run (usually about an hour or so), and travel if it is an away game ? pretty much always by bus.
Saturday ? meet at the stadium at 11.45, bus to the hotel for lunch and the afternoon to either sleep or chat before the game at 18.30. If it is an away game we usually have a light run through on the morning of the game and leave after the match at about 10pm. This means we can arrive back in Pau anywhere from 11pm to 7am.
Sunday ? rest. My favourite session of the week.
People I know (usually my wife) tend to laugh when rugby players talk about their ?job?. I must admit that I never refer to what I do as work. Yet while there is no question that we have more down time than a traditional 9-5 job, there are many aspects of this ?job? that are exhausting.
The first is that rugby is a winter sport ? and in Europe, particularly when I used to play in Glasgow, it is rare to train in either sunshine or anything less than multiple layers of clothing. I have become an aficionado of weather forecast websites ? ?minus seven degrees and snow in Grenoble this weekend - %$#&ing stupid sport!?.
The second difficulty is purely physical. Rugby is a collision sport. Training and games usually result in bruises, cuts and other aches and pains that often don?t repair before the next time you are required to run into each other. You can?t be a professional rugby player if you are not prepared to accept continuing to play and train with niggles and minor injuries.
The third difficulty is mental. I am not going to claim the intricacies of rugby ? the analysis, the combinations and calls for various moves - are rocket science. The mental difficulty is in part related to the physical side of things. Contact training and preparing for games (especially when you are sore, tired or carrying an injury) are particularly draining. There are certainly stages of the season when a player wakes up game day and wonders how he is going to get himself into the right frame of mind.
While rugby is tiring, it is certainly not a demanding job in the same way as shift work or performing surgery. We train for short and intense periods and then have the opportunity to go home, and I love the fact that I spend a large part of the day with my family. We also realise that this career is limited to, if we are lucky, six or seven years.
So, next time you roll your eyes or feel a pang of envy when a rugby player says he is going to the pool at 10am on a Monday morning for an hour, just remember ? it won?t be forever, and the chances are good that sometime soon an arthritic and scarred 30-something year old will be ringing you looking for a job.
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