Professional and amateur footballers don’t have too much in common but pre-season is a vital period for players at every level of the game as they strive to get fit for the new campaign. Pro players typically undergo 4-6 weeks of pre-season training prior to the new season as they gradually build up the fitness required to play several games a week for the next 10 months. Pre-season training is also essential for players to build robust bodies capable of running, jumping, twisting and turning at high speed without succumbing to injury. Many players dread the hard yards of pre-season, but Jamie Carragher wasn’t one of them. “I used to enjoy pre-season,” he said on episode 10 of the From Paper to Podium podcast. “You hear a lot of scare stories about players being sick after runs but I loved getting fit, training twice a day, eating the right foods and looking after my body.” The pre pre-season At the end of a hard season rest is vital to allow your body to recover from any niggling injuries and refresh your mind from the stresses and strains of competition. But if you put your feet up for too long and consume more calories than you’re burning then your fitness will quickly decline and it won’t be long before you start to put on weight. Extra weight will make it harder for you to get fit during pre-season and you could be more vulnerable to injury. For Carragher, there was a simple solution to ensure he started day one of pre-season in good shape. “I used to do a few bits before I went back,” he told the From Paper to Podium podcast. “I think it helped psychologically as much as physically – knowing that I’d done a few runs and got my diet back on track before I started.” Using the ball to get fit Before sports scientists, nutritionists, physios and strength and conditioning coaches became commonplace at Premier League training grounds, players would undergo primitive fitness training to prepare for the new season. “When I started at Liverpool we would do running in the morning and play five-a-side in the afternoon,” says Carragher. There were no heart monitors, you’d run around a pitch so many times and basically the aim was to not come last.” Now, the emphasis is on getting fit by using player-specific sessions tailored to the needs of each individual and by incorporating a football from the first day of pre-season. “If there’s one area of sports science that has evolved it’s the approach to pre-season,” says Professor James Morton. “It’s become a lot more scientific and planned. Every player will have all of their minutes scheduled so they’re all working to get to a certain level. “There is a misconception that to get fit you need to get fit by running in straight lines but you can get fit with a football. Everything is done with a ball and the balls are out on day one. That’s probably the best bit of advice we can give them. On day one, get the balls out.“ Recovery Bouts of hard training take a toll on the body, which means it’s important to recover between sessions so that your body heals and you can train at a high intensity. Carragher adopted a consistent approach to recovering from pre-season training, as well as sessions and games throughout the season. “I was really behind sports science,” he said. “I used to love ice baths, I could really feel the benefit. I never really liked the cryotherapy chambers, I just used to come out feeling cold. I used to get ice baths a lot after games and my legs would always feel better. I still train a lot now, every day five days a week and I do miss them.” Check out the full episode of the latest From Paper to Podium podcast with Jamie Carragher as the former Liverpool defender discusses his career, the evolution of sports science, avoiding alcohol and much more. Click here to listen. Written By Julia Deufel - content writer and consultant Julia runs her own marketing consultancy, working with businesses and non-profits in education, nutrition, fitness and the arts. She also teaches a blend of HIIT and Pilates she developed and is an avid indoor cyclist. Julia is an advocate of effective altruism and believes in the power of sport to change lives.