I never thought I’d enjoy returning to training as much as I did this week. I’d done my time at home on the sofa, and on Tuesday morning I was able to rejoin my teammates and begin the process of getting back to full fitness. I’d spent a lot of time on my own since the operation, mostly chatting to friends on FaceTime or WhatsApp. I can confirm nothing replaces sitting around over a coffee talking absolute rubbish with the lads.
First up, I had to check in with one of our team doctors. I had to have the soft cast removed, stitches taken out, and a new light dressing applied. Speaking to colleagues who’d had the same operation, they were non-weight bearing in a soft cast for over twelve weeks. In my drug-induced state after surgery, I thought I heard the surgeon say I may be in a moon boot after two weeks, although I was far from certain. My fingers were firmly crossed on the morning drive in.
Reading the surgeon’s report resulted in a Napoleon Dynamite style fist pump. “Moon boot two weeks post-op”. Great news, as it means I’m already partially weight-bearing through my injured foot (although still a long way off walking unaided).
I am awkward on crutches at the best of times, with a couple of slips and near disasters over the last two weeks. I’m still using them but I’m allowed to put roughly 20% of my bodyweight through my injured foot, compared to nothing previously. This makes getting around far easier, although when it comes to domestic chores and cooking for myself, I’m still milking it for all it’s worth.
The bad news is that the 'laissez-faire' approach I took to my diet in the first two weeks after surgery has come back to bite me. Our team nutritionist made an appearance at the training ground on Tuesday, and despite my best efforts, I was unable to dodge the callipers.
A 3kg drop in bodyweight, with a 1.8% increase in body fat, is not what you would call a desired change in body composition. Looking at my ‘sloppy rig’ it is hard to argue that the measurements were inaccurate. The trainers have put it down to muscle atrophy, a lack of physical activity leading to muscle wastage. I put it down to eating family-sized bags of Kettle Chips while binge-watching Suits.
I’ve reigned it in now, and I’m back on a pretty strict nutrition plan. I have a real focus on dropping my carbs and overall calories on non-training days, as I’m still very inactive away from the gym. I’m sure being back in modified training will have a positive impact on my body composition, but I know that I wont be able to consume the amount I was when participating fully in team training and playing every week. Christmas is going to be difficult, pray for me.
I have been initiated into the long term rehab group, 'Team Recon' (Reconditioning). There are currently seven members, and hopefully that number drops quickly and there are no more sign-ups this season. The group waved goodbye to Tom ‘Flash’ Cruse last week who has rejoined the main training squad ahead of our European match against La Rochelle this Sunday. That’s great news, as 'Crusey' is known for his intensity in training and adds a lot to the team.
On training days I normally have three sessions programmed. The sessions vary, but a normal day consists of upper body weights, a conditioning block, and a rehab session involving adapted lower body weights and activation exercises. These blocks can vary in time, but are usually around 45-60 minutes each. This is all interspersed with physio treatment (ranging from soft tissue massage to banded resistance exercises), electrical stimulation (Compex device pictured below) to my injured leg which limits muscle wastage, and icing/ compression of my foot using a 'Game Ready' machine.
I’ve started off with modified sessions and the intensity will progress every week, but currently I’m really enjoying being back training and working hard with my teammates again.
The big advantage of being in a professional environment is that everything is organised for you. From the weights being changed during strength/power sessions by one of the S&C trainers, to one-on-one rehab sessions with the physios, you simply turn up with a good attitude and get the work done.
Staring out of the gym windows for the next five or so months and watching training from a distance is going to take some getting used to. What will definitely help is the people that I’ll be training with in the gym everyday.
There are some very motivated players in 'Team Recon', and great conditioners/ physios who will really help to spur us on during the highs and lows of rehab. As one of the new guys I’ve got to make sure I bring some enthusiasm to the group and help keep morale as high as possible. The last thing the longer-serving members of the group need is someone dragging their heels and sulking from day one.