The Chelsea leg­end on how lung-bust­ing runs in the off-sea­son turned him into a box-to-box star

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS - Frank Lam­pard

Is there such thing as an off-sea­son for a Pre­mier League player?

I think the off-sea­son is im­por­tant for a Pre­mier League player, but for me it didn’t mean I put my feet up. Typ­i­cally I had three or four weeks off dur­ing the sum­mer and would bal­ance that with pure re­lax­ation, where I’d put the ball away to give my mind and body a full rest. After that, I’d spend a few weeks work­ing my way up, ready for the start of pre-sea­son train­ing. It’s im­por­tant you don’t spend too long not mov­ing – you’ve got to look after your body and en­sure you’re pre­pared for pre-sea­son. If you’re play­ing catch-up you will get found out, as ev­ery­thing is mon­i­tored these days. The data will show if you are be­hind phys­i­cally.

Did you adapt your diet dur­ing those two weeks of rest?

I was al­ways very con­scious of my diet when I was rest­ing. It’s easy to con­trol your diet when you’re in the rou­tine of train­ing at a club or play­ing at a ma­jor tour­na­ment, be­cause all the food and drink is pro­vided. When­ever I went on hol­i­day, I gave my­self free­dom to en­joy the foods I might not be al­lowed to eat dur­ing the sea­son. It helps you to re­lax, but you have to stay on top of your diet. If you af­ford your­self some lee­way, you can’t take it too far.

As you got older, were there el­e­ments of pre-sea­son which be­came harder?

It def­i­nitely got tougher. I was al­ways a player who en­joyed pre-sea­son, and I liked run­ning and push­ing my body to its limit. Pre-sea­son is al­ways dif­fi­cult, and it needs to be to give you that base fit­ness be­fore the sea­son starts. In the lat­ter years of my ca­reer, the re­cov­ery was harder. I had to make sure I didn’t overdo it and looked at ways to re­cover quicker, like sleep­ing bet­ter, stretch­ing more of­ten and us­ing ice baths.

Did you do any spe­cific ses­sions which gave you a phys­i­cal edge on the pitch?

From a very young age, I be­came aware that I needed to do ex­tra work to get to the level I wanted to be at. I did a lot of run­ning as I wanted to be a box-to-box mid­fielder, so I’d do box-to-box sprints once or twice a week, in groups of eight to 10 runs, to repli­cate the de­mands of a match. I would lit­er­ally run from the 18-yard box at one end of the pitch to the other, at 75-80 per cent of my top speed with brief re­cov­ery times, to put my­self un­der pres­sure. I’d then mix it up with shorter sprints for speed, en­durance and power. I’d do shut­tle runs – for­wards, back­wards and side­ways – to repli­cate a game sit­u­a­tion, and work on my agility and speed from a stand­ing start. I used to do six to eight sets over dif­fer­ent dis­tances, which I felt would be sim­i­lar to what I’d be do­ing in cen­tral mid­field. I felt if I did that work, it put me ahead of my com­peti­tors in terms of pure fit­ness.

How long were your rest pe­ri­ods be­tween those runs?

I was quite old school – I wasn’t on the clock as such. If I did a box-to-box run, my walk back to the other penalty area would be the rest pe­riod, which I think took about 12-15 sec­onds. The run lasted a sim­i­lar amount of time, so the work and rest pe­ri­ods were about 50-50. The rest wasn’t very long be­cause I wanted to keep putting my­self un­der pres­sure, as you have to repli­cate the in­ten­sity of a game. All of the sprint work would be done over a dis­tance no big­ger than the 18-yard box. I’d sprint from the penalty spot to one cor­ner and back, and then re­peat that for the other three cor­ners. That was one set, and then I’d rest for a short pe­riod be­fore re­peat­ing the drill six to eight times.

Your goalscor­ing record was as good as some of the best strik­ers – how did you hone your fin­ish­ing?

I worked in­cred­i­bly hard on my fin­ish­ing through­out my ca­reer. As a young­ster, I de­cided that I didn’t want to be­come a run-of-the-mill mid­fielder who could just stay cen­tral and af­fect pos­ses­sion, but not af­fect a game in terms of goals. I knew I needed to train hard to hone the tech­nique. I worked on my ar­rival into the 18-yard box, and the tim­ing of those runs. I did that by watch­ing my other team-mates and see­ing ex­actly where they liked to cross the ball from – or if it was a striker, where they liked to hold the ball up, so I’d be in the right place at the right time. So much of that was men­tal, repet­i­tive work. In terms of my shoot­ing, I tried to prac­tise ev­ery type of fin­ish I could imag­ine. I worked on long shots from dis­tance and in­stinc­tive fin­ishes in­side the box, and I’d al­ways ask for the pass into my feet to be hard to con­trol, so that I’d be ready dur­ing a game. I didn’t like clean passes; I wanted to put my­self un­der pres­sure. I worked on six-yard box fin­ish­ing a lot. I didn’t think peo­ple would ex­pect a cen­tral mid­fielder to pick up those po­si­tions, and I wanted to get into those ar­eas.

“I’d al­ways ask for the pass into my feet to be hard to con­trol. I didn’t like clean passes; I wanted to put my­self un­der pres­sure”

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