A properly structured pre-season training programme can make all the difference to grassroots players and teams. Just don't leave it too late!
Your lungs are burning and you're gasping for air. Your face matches this season's new burgundy kit and your heart is trying to beat its way out of your chest...
The first match of the season is just ten minutes old, and you're beginning to regret your summer rooted to the sofa, or the bar stool, watching the World Cup and eating microwave pizzas.
But it doesn't have to be like this.
While kick-abouts in your local park can keep your fitness ticking over, they are no substitute for a properly structured pre-season training schedule. We therefore asked the experts at Lilleshall to come up with a pre-season training plan, designed to get grassroots players or teams in peak condition for the start of the season.
The idea was to devise a realistic training programme for the sort of amateur footballers who would like to be fit for the start of the season but are, in practice, more likely to be found in the pub than the gym on a Friday night.
The result is two alternative programmes - a six-week programme and a three-week one. Which is the right one for you will depend on factors such as your own level of commitment, what other training your club does or doesn't lay on and precisely what you hope to achieve.
The Six-Week Programme
The six-week plan is for individual players whose clubs, like many grass-roots clubs, don't run any kind of pre-season training. It is designed for players to do on their own or in small groups of team-mates, either at home and in the local park.
It is even something that coaches who can't get their squads together for a proper pre-season regime can email or print out and post to all their players, suggesting that they use it individually to get fit for the new season one their own. Click here for more...
The Three-Week Programme
The second programme spans three weeks, and is for players who want to have given themselves a head-start when their club's own pre-season training begins. It is designed to build up fitness, muscle-strength and endurance that will both lessen the pain of pre-season, and give individual players a potentially crucial head-start over possible rivals for their place in the starting line-up.
The real beauty of both the six-week and the three-week programmes is that neither of them require any expensive equipment, such as weights or bleep machines. All you need is a park with a football pitch, a decent pair of trainers and a couple of hours a week. Click here for more