Fit as a footballer
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AS some of the world’s finest legs dash round South African football pitches this June, many people could be left looking at their own pins with a glum face. But take heart: You don’t need an army of personal trainers and nutritionists to get a footballer’s body.
According to Maximuscle sports nutritionist Simon Jurkiw, who has worked with numerous highprofile football clubs and players, says a simple training programme and sensible diet can help anyone be as fit as a footballer.
The modern football training session focuses on increasing fitness, muscle strength, co-ordination and injury prevention, but the trappings of daily life mean that, for ordinary folk, all that becomes rather impractical.
In pursuit of the coveted footballer’s bod, though, one thing is imperative: Stop-start sprinting.
Not only is it less time-consuming than tedious, long runs, but it improves your metabolism - and it’s a principal building block in a footballer’s physique.
“Men will run, at high-level competition, between about 10 and 12km every game and they’ll sprint about 15 metres about every 30 seconds,” Jurkiw explains.
“Women will be doing something very similar to that.”
To get a footballer’s body, you need to replicate that, so just jogging for hours on end won’t cut the mustard. For sculpted steel buns and thighs, you need to be aiming for about 6-8km of repeated sprints - about the same as a recreational player gets through in 90 minutes.
You’ll also burn more off with sprint training than with your typical gym workout.
While an hour on a cross-trainer burns roughly 600 calories, according to Jurkiw, your average 75-kilo footballer burns about 1,300-1,400 calories in one game.
Try sprinting for 20-30 seconds, then walking, with a work-torest ratio of 1:2, and repeat five times. Be sure to start and finish with a warm-up and cool-down and build up as your condition improves.
Strength, or ‘resistance’, training is crucial in strengthening and toning muscles. Few women dream of having giant shoulders or bulging biceps, but sculpting your new footballer’s body needn’t mean lifting heavy things with the meat-heads in the weight room. A simple programme of home exercises can help to get some shape in your legs and wobbly bits.
Each person’s body is different, so if in doubt as to the best plan for you, ask advice - or try some of the following: • Light squats (your body weight
should be on your heels as you squat down, and your knees in line with your toes); • Abdominal crunches (keeping your feet and lower back flat on the floor as you raise your upper back); • Planks (hold your body on your forearms in a press-up position, keep your back flat, and hold your abs in tight for 30-60 seconds); • Lunges (holding dumbbells at your sides, step forward and dip towards the ground, ensuring your your front knee is not in front of your toes); • Bridges (lie on your side, support your weight on the lower elbow and lift your hip off the floor, holding for 30-60 seconds). Again, make sure you stretch before and after.
Short sprints and resistance training are both forms of anaerobic exercise - your muscles burn energy without the need for oxygen, producing lactic acid (and aching as a result). Be sure, therefore, to mix that with aerobic - or ‘cardiovascular’ exercise. That means anything that will get you puffing - use a gym machine, like a stepper bike or treadmill, if you prefer.
If anaerobic fitness is like a powerful sports car that can accelerate hard and hit high speeds, aerobic fitness is like a car with a little engine - less powerful but able to drive for longer on the same amount of fuel.
It’s the balance between aerobic fitness (for 90 minutes of continuous movement) and anaerobic fitness (for bursts of speed) that marks a footballer’s body out as different to that of a body builder, or a distance runner.
All that activity requires fuel - lots of fuel. Many ladies are wary of gobbling carbs, but they’re your body’s preferred source of energy.
Both women and men’s daily requirements are relative to body weight: a professional would typically take on around 6-8g of carbohydrate for every kilo of body weight, while part-time folk are fine on around 4g per kilo.
Therefore, on an full exercise day, you might try porridge with fruit for breakfast and something like a rice or pasta dish for lunch.
Around 100g of rice or pasta gives you approximately 60g of carbs, which Jurkiw says you should mix with something like chicken, salad or veg.
Dinner, he adds, depends more on the individual.
Many health-or weight-conscious people are reluctant to eat late in the day, but your body will need refuelling after exercise .
Jurkiw explains: “If you think of your muscle as like a fuel tank, you’re trying to fill it to the top. The quicker you have it (fuel), the easier it is, because of different receptors, for your muscle to fill the tank up straight away.”