Once the football season comes to a close, it might seem like that’s it for the players who ply their trade in the sport. The world turns its attention away from football until the pre-season kicks into gear and you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that squads across the country hit the beach until July comes knocking.
However, when we asked Head of Sport Science and Strength & Conditioning Scott Guyett what really happens, the truth, it transpires, is far different.
With plans for the players, the lads maintain a looser schedule than usual, but remain focussed on their fitness all the same, with six weeks 'off' broken up into three two-week segments.
Guyett explains: “We give them guidelines so they all get given an off-season plan and not much changes in that. They’re not going to be exercising and training as much and they need to be a little bit more careful about what they eat. They need to maintain their strength levels so we push the idea of staying in the gym and doing a lot of lower body strength work and we just ease them back in.
“The first two weeks off are sort of general, unorganised conditioning: a bit of swimming, a bit of golf, tennis. The second two-week block, we give them some structured running to do which tends to be on the treadmill or gym-based. And then the final two weeks is more pitch-based running, more specific.”
So how do the club ensure their players stick to the schedule? In short, they don’t. However Guyett reveals that for most sportsmen, there’s no real need to.
“Within that six-week period, I’m pretty confident those particular lads will be sticking to that programme as best they can. It’s quite interesting; players get quite bored very, very quickly. I don’t know what it is but it’s almost like they get this guilty feeling if they haven't exercised.
“You’ll usually find that players look forward to the close season but after a week, they’re like: ‘I need to be in the gym, I need to be doing stuff’. They’re so used to being active every single day that it’s very hard just to stop.”
Some of the lads don’t stay away from the club at all, though, even joining Guyett on training and fitness camps during their break…
“I took Scott Dann a couple of seasons ago to Ibiza for 10 days, we did a training camp just me and him. This season, we’re doing another training camp in the final two weeks before they come back. We offer that to a number of players and generally get pretty good take-up.
“I don’t mind taking the players away. You do a couple of hours in the morning and the rest of the day is yours. You go somewhere different, somewhere nice and you can incorporate it into a break as well.
“In previous seasons, we’ve had lads who ring me up and say, ‘can I come in and do a little bit in the weeks building up to pre-season?’ For me, the lads are first class in that regard and tend to come back in very good condition these days. I can’t remember the last time I’ve come back from pre-season and thought, ‘wow, what’s going on with this guy?’ We don’t really have those problems.”
Looking ahead to next season, we’re sure that will come as a relief to each and every Palace fan.