EXETER CITY DEFENDER PAT BALDWIN WRITES FOR WMN SPORT
The last time we spoke it was on a free weekend without any game. We were given the weekend off – that was very much appreciated and needed, but it was not given lightly. We all worked hard in the week leading up to it – and this week.
Having a free weekend from a game gives a two-week window that can be used for great benefit. It gave Paul Tisdale and the management team a chance to spend a solid amount of time with us on the training pitch.
Whether you are a team on a good run or a bad run, it is always beneficial to spend time improving areas that need working on, or to work on new ideas.
Tis incorporated plenty of double sessions in the previous two weeks and us players will be looking to take that coaching into the games ahead.
As I have said before, Tis and the coaching staff give us everything we need in terms of quality coaching and guidance, so it does come down to us to execute it on a Saturday.
We knew that we had last weekend off at the start of that week, so when that happens you generally know that the Friday session is going to be harder than normal. What nobody anticipated was just how hard.
The morning was our usual technical session. It was fairly hard in terms of fitness but this type of training is not solely designed for conditioning. You do get good work out of it, but the emphasis is on the content of the information.
The afternoon festivities were designed for one thing. To make sure, come Saturday morning, you could not walk due to your legs not working.
The exact wording used to describe the run set out for us was “old school”. Whenever those words are ever mentioned to depict a run, you normally get a little sick feeling felt only at school race-days when you were a child.
We were taken over to Woodbury Common, just round the corner from Woodbury Hotel and Golf Club. It is a beautiful place with searching views down to the sea – not that we were able to appreciate the beautiful scenery!
The circuit, measured out for us so kindly by Rob Edwards and Mel Gwinnett the day before, was about four and a half miles long. Tis started off as our pace-maker with Mel taking over around the two-mile mark. The pace felt good to start with, far from easy but just enough, you were just about able to enjoy the scenery and maybe have a little chat among yourselves.
That all changed when Sergeant Mel took over. I’m not sure if he had a weekend away booked with his wife and was running late for a flight or something, but he went off like a well-fed gazelle!
He was up and down hills, through trees and jumping over logs like Bear Grylls, no, let me correct that, more like Ray Mears, trying to catch his dinner. (I know Mel sometimes reads this, so, Mel, I’m only joking!)
The pack started to separate around the three-mile mark and the talking completely stopped with eyes firmly focused on where you were treading.
We have run at this place on a number of occasions, especially mid-winter when the training ground is not suitable to train on, so we have all become quite familiar with the surroundings.
In the middle of the common is a very steep hill that feels like a mile long and as steep as a mountain. But, in reality, it is only about five hundred yards long and a slight incline. The circuit was only ever taking us to that hill with the finish line at the top. It was never going to be at the bottom, was it?
I thought I was nicely positioned – roughly mid-group – and, as I reached the bottom of the hill, I looked up at the top and some of the lads were already finished.
At that exact moment I was very close to tears. I could feel my heart trying to jump out of my chest and my head was having a big argument with my legs, as all they wanted to do was stop.
But, it was not far from the finish line, so I put my head down, pumped my arms and ran as hard as I could. I finally got to feel what it was like to run up the Travelator from the TV show Gladiators.
As hard as it was, it does not hurt to get some old-school fitness in. It was a great team-building exercise as we were all in it together and got each other through. But one thing’s for certain – I do not ever want to do that run again.