Joe O'Connor shows you how to #MoveMoreAtHome
The increasingly well-worn tracks you’ll see snaking their way around your local public park testify to the number of people who are currently making a significant effort to improve their physical fitness.
The fine weather and the desire to get out of the house during these times of lockdown certainly seems to have encouraged more people to get off the couch and lace up a pair of runners.
A 30 to 60 minute jog at a steady pace will definitely increase your aerobic capacity, but is it the optimal training to be doing if you’re a club footballer, hurler, or camogie player trying to keep in shape until a return to collective training and playing?
According to Joe O’Connor, who was a fitness coach with the Clare (2013) and Limerick (2018) All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship winning teams and 2011 Christy Ring Cup champions, Kerry, it isn’t.
That is why he has teamed up with the GAA and Sure to produce four movement and fitness videos he believes will give players the right physical foundation for a return to collective training and playing.
“My thought process around the four videos was that, although we don't see any return to play any time soon, players should be preparing their body for a return to play,” O’Connor told GAA.ie
“A lot of injuries happen because players don't have the acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction training done.
“Loads of people are out jogging at the moment which is great, I'm a runner myself, but you can't just develop aerobic fitness and think you're going to be structurally able to accelerate off the mark without putting yourself at risk.
“So, the four videos are basically around building the foundation of that, then making you stronger, then looking at acceleration and power, and then looking at change of direction. Just to prepare people for a return to football, hurling, and camogie.”
O’Connor is a lecturer in Exercise Physiology and Performance Nutrition in Tralee IT and a big believer in the importance of building functional fitness by working hard on the basics.
His videos will reflect that philosophy. The first, which was released today and can be viewed at the top of this article, focuses on balance, an often over-looked athletic ability that should be a foundation stone for every GAA player.
“These are simple videos with simple exercises to do, but the science behind them is rock-solid and logical,” says O’Connor.
“A lot of injuries are caused because we've forgotten the fundamental basics of exercise physiology.
“First of all you must have balance and coordination. A lot of injuries are because we don't have good control of our ligaments, tendons, and joints. Once you have control of your ligaments, tendons, and joints, then you can get stronger.
“And once you're strong enough, you can start applying that at speed, which by definition is power. Then the last phase of it, the icing on the cake, is change of direction.
“If you look at most injuries in football and hurling, they're non-contact injuries. They're soft-tissue injuries. A player could be running and tear a hamstring.
“I used to say to players I worked with that I always took that as a personal insult if they suffered a soft-tissue injury, because it suggest the strength and conditioning training they were doing wasn't appropriate to prepare the body to play the sport.
“The theory is that we're trying to make the body robust enough to return to play whenever that is. If you've just been jogging on the roads and building your aerobic fitness, then you'll be aerobically fit but you may not be structurally prepared for the contact nature of sport.”
The second video in the series that O’Connor has filmed in association with the GAA and Sure fill focus on strength, and how you develop a well-balanced strength-based programme.
“The purpose of the second video on strength is to make sure that whatever strength training you are doing is that it is planned appropriately," says O'Connor.
“The video will explain some of the key exercises that you need to do to make sure that you have the right balance.
“Quite often people haven't done enough work on the posterior side of the body, the glutes, hamstrings, and back, with the result that they're just not strong enough to support their own body in sport."