Pre season training has always been pretty full on. In the Rugby Union calendar, June to August is a time for pushing fitness, strength and skills to prepare for the playing season ahead. With the first warm up game next week against Nottingham, there has been more emphasis on ‘contact’ sessions in preparation for actual games, rather than a focus on fitness eg. running hills. Dec likens it to getting beaten up on a daily basis.
At 33, retirement is on the horizon, and the cross over to life beyond playing is taking root. Dec is is embarking on a coaching career, so after his own day of training, he’s passing on what he has learnt over the past fourteen years to the academy lads at London Irish. It’s a long day, and hard work both physically and mentally. But like anything, if you do something you love it is a pleasure and a privilege rather than a chore.
Oddly, for an old guy (33), Dec is feeling pretty good. Apart from the usual longterm niggles originating from two ACL repairs in two consecutive years, he feels that he is in the shape of his life. It’s always tricky to put this down to any one reason. One of the main factors is that after 14 years of messing around with various diets and supplements, he is taking the sensible, and, sorry folks, ‘boring’ avenue of eating healthy balanced meals. Don’t get me wrong, diets or lifestyles such as low carbing or the Paleo diet have their merits, and can work for many, however, for most athletes in hard training they won’t enable optimal performance and can even impact on susceptibility to illness.. As well as the good food, and obviously the daily training, rest is another important aspect. So no late nights, and as much of a lie in as possible!
As he is still trying to gain weight, total daily intake now needs to be in excess of 4200kcal. That’s a lot of food! This is where sports supplements would come in very useful, but Dec is reluctant to rely on these, preferring to reap the benefits of real food, benefits that a powder mixed with water simply cannot replicate. Practically, this can be tough, requiring careful planning of what and when he is going to eat.
Here are the current dietary regimen principles:
- regular meals – roughly every 3 hours, that’s 6 meals to spread the food throughout the day and timed around training sessions
- at least 700kcal per meal
- not excluding any food group eg. carbohydrate
- adding extra calories using nutrient dense foods eg. olive oil (100kcal per tablespoon), extra nuts & seeds added to recipes, lashings of peanut butter on bagels, avocados, grated cheese on top of meals
- using supplements when necessary – a carb/protein recovery drink during weight training when eating is not possible, followed by a meal asap after the session
Here’s what he had yesterday (all meals, one serving with no seconds!):
7am: large bowl porridge, 1/2 bagel with butter, jam, peanut butter
10am: meal at work – pork, mashed potatoes, vegetables
1pm – meal at work – beef fajitas
4pm: yoghurt, nuts, apple, supplement bar
7pm: meal at home – chicken, spinach, cherry tomatoes and puy lentils with brown basmati rice
10pm: tuna mayo in a wrap with pepper and spring onions
So it’s just a few days until the first warm up game oop north (that’s anywhere past the M25 for Dec). For me, every game is a nerve racking experience. The phone call that comes about 30 minutes after the final whistle is always eagerly anticipated, so that I can breathe a sigh of relief that he has come through relatively unscathed (black eyes and wounds that can be sewn up pitch side don’t count as proper injuries!)