Have you ever wondered what a professional footballer’s workday is really like? We caught up with West Ham nutritionist Matt Jones to talk about the ins and outs of training, fitness tests, food, and everybody’s favourite, the ice bath!
So, what is the first thing the players do when they arrive?
When players arrive they will typically change, undergo some initial physical screenings such as body weight check, skinfold assessment or hydration tests, wellness questionnaires and in recent years COVID questionnaires. They will then select a meal from the breakfast menu before they and sit down and eat with teammates. Players are usually pretty up for training, so when they come in there’s a few laughs and jokes and usually a lot of coffee. The Monday after a win is always a really good time to be in.
For advice on nutrition before training or matches read our Pre-Match Nutrition Guide.
And after breakfast?
Those players without injuries or issues are usually straight outside and beginning their warm ups. Any specific tactical issues will be looked at then, so if the coach is taking a certain group to work on something they’ll be pulled in for a chat before, but usually everyone is together.
How would the medical team usually check a player's health and fitness?
We use a variety of different methods from a simple subjective wellness questionnaire or a brief conversation with a member of staff, to more complex skinfold assessments, urine hydration or saliva samples. Players are usually the last to admit something might be wrong; it’s a cliché of course – but players want to be out there with a ball, again, especially after a good result at the weekend.
Will players cover all aspects of training every day, or do they tend to focus on different elements throughout the week?
Most training days will have a specific focus, whether that is physical, tactical or technical, although the nature of football is such that aspects of each will be integrated into all training sessions. But on certain days there will be a greater emphasis on specific aspects, for instance 3-4 days before a game is where the coaches will place a greater emphasis on physical aspects, with small sided games, conditioning drills and sessions in the gym, while a day before the game there will be a greater emphasis on tactical shape and positions, with set play rehearsals and much less emphasis on physical components.
For more information about physical, tactical and technical training read our four-minute guide to The Three Branches of Football Training.
Are ice baths as bad as they look? Or do players get used to them after a while? What’s the worst part about post-match recovery?
You get some very funny faces in the pool area! Some players really do not like the cold water, some love it and swear by it. So it’s not for everyone and is certainly not forced on everyone. The worst part of the post-match period is probably all of the interviews that have to be done, they will often interfere with the actual recovery interventions as players will be taken from us.
Read our short guide on How to Recover Like a Professional After Football Matches for more information on post-match recovery.
When would you say players are happiest in training?
Players are happiest after the warm up, when the balls come out. They just love playing football. Last season there was also a pretty serious game called the ‘D Game’ which often involved the whole squad at the end of training, the players loved that too and I must admit the staff also loved watching it!
Are there any treats that footballers are allowed? Things which are actually quite healthy so players can indulge?
Yes, we will recreate some treats on most days to be honest including carrot cake energy balls, protein yogurt mousses, electrolyte lollies and healthy milkshakes. The nutrition culture in football is changing, players are now recognising the benefits of a healthy diet so the traditional treats are becoming a thing of the past.
After training is over and the players head home, what type of activities do they enjoy?
Most will just chill and play Playstation or watch Netflix with some recovery garments on, those with kids may play in the garden. To be honest outside of football most players are pretty sedentary, so it’s nothing too strenuous. We want to try and avoid situations where they add additional stress on the body outside of football.
Click Here to shop our range of Premium Footballer Supplements