Essendon star David Zaharakis opens up about his training regime and love for fitness as he prepares to perform on the field each week, in a piece for aflplayers.com.au brought to you by Fitness First.
Since my first few years at the Bombers, I’ve had a keen interest in fitness, especially in knowing the size of my workload during regular and pre-season training.
Knowing my numbers and getting feedback to manage them have been a strong priority throughout my AFL career.
These days, you can’t float through the system not knowing how your body responds to certain things otherwise you’ll leave yourself open to getting injured.
As athletes, the key is to keep active in any way possible and I’m lucky to have the opportunity in this profession to stay active not only on game day but also throughout the week.
For example, if we play on Saturday, then Sunday is for recovery and where you just get the body going. That involves coming to the club and doing a pool session and 20 minutes of leg drills where you just get the body going.
After that we might do some hot/colds in the spa baths for another 10 or 15 minutes and keep the recovery process ticking over. Then we finish with 15 minutes of stretching the main muscles such as hamstrings, back, quads, calves and groin followed by some working of the muscles with a foam roller.
It takes about an hour of the day and the rest of the afternoon is for relaxing at home or whatever we like to do to let the body recover.
“These days, you can’t float through the system not knowing how your body responds to certain things otherwise you’ll leave yourself open to getting injured.”
Monday (two days post game day) we’ll do a light run around session where we test everyone’s heart rate to see how their fatigue is going. It’s sort of like the beep test where we do a couple of levels of that and it measures fatigue week-to-week.
Then we do a skill-based session in preparation for our main training session that week. This might include some light touch drills, a kicking circuit, a handball game or some weeks me might play soccer or American football. The purpose of the session is to get the body moving.
After that comes an upper body weights session in the afternoon – it’s still too early for leg weights – and more recovery such as hot/colds and pool sessions.
Tuesday (three days post game) we do what’s called a craft session where the midfielders might work on stoppages, defenders work on defensive techniques and forwards work on goal-kicking or one-on-one marking. That session goes for an hour, which isn’t really too hard on your legs and its purpose is to hone in on the specifics of your game.
That’s followed by a cross-training session – some guys will box and others might go for a swim or ride the bike depending on how they’re feeling or what the fitness staff think they need to top up on.
Wednesday is our main training day. Being four days post the weekend’s game, your body’s ready to go after having a couple of days to recover.
This is our big day for the week. We do a skills session which can range from small, medium or large depending on what the fitness staff and coaches want and includes our match practice and preparing for the team you’re playing on the weekend. Following that is our main leg-weights session for the week.
Thursday is our day off for recovering. We’ve had three days on our legs and after that big training session the day before, it’s time to relax the body and get your mind away from the footy club.
Friday is about game activation and is usually a high-intensity, low-duration session to get the body zipping around, more ball movement and honing your kicking and touch to prepare for tomorrow’s game.
“My main tip for those who are keen to get fit is to enjoy what you’re doing.”
We do recovery after every session, and on my day off I do Pilates to keep my body that little bit more active with glute and core work. Some guys will go to the pool and do extra recovery on their day off while others might do yoga.
This schedule represents a normal seven-day break, but the thing with footy is you don’t normally get a seven-day break – you either get a six-day, eight or nine-day break so the weeks do vary.
Outside of the club, I still try and keep my body moving anyway I can.
The club introduced me to Pilates in my first few years in the system. One of our employees used to take us through a session after our weights for some extra core work.
I stopped doing it for a year when we moved to Tullamarine but the benefits were sorely missed and I found myself in the studio the following season. I usually do it from when Round 1 begins all the way through to the end of the season.
I find the Pilates helps in doing something different during the year while still stimulating my body in a different way which aids recovery and also improves strength and core.
I also love hiking and seeing that side of the world. Hiking up mountains and seeing views you wouldn’t necessarily see anywhere else – I just love it. It’s great for fitness especially up in the altitude but I also do it while on holidays.
My main tip for those who are keen to get fit is to enjoy what you’re doing. Don’t force yourself to do what you’re not liking because there are a lot of different ways to train whether it’s running, bike riding, swimming, rowing, walking, hiking, Pilates or yoga, there are so many ways to keep fit.
Find something you really love about training because you’ll get more out of it, and the more you get out of it and happier you are doing it, the more your body’s going to respond to it rather than grinding away at something you don’t like.
To read Western Bulldogs ruckman Will Minson’s tips on nutrition and eating for football click HERE