The explosive England and Bath star talks us through running and recovery. This is an advertising feature.
Anthony Watson reveals his lockdown workout
Elite athletes often talk of leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of glory, but in most cases that means making a lifestyle change. Following the roller coaster of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, it dawned on England and Bath back-three wonder Anthony Watson that he would have to approach his downtime slightly differently.
“After I went to Japan I had to get home and get the ‘recovery centre’ sorted,” he says, laughing that his partner hates his choice of terminology. Since returning from the global showcase, Watson has upped his use of sauna, cold baths and even an hyperbaric chamber.
“From being there and going to the onsens (Japanese hot baths) and seeing how that helps my body and helped me feel better, to go again, it made me realise that what I was doing at home wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to have any excuses to not do it. So what better way to not have an excuse than to have it all in your house?
“I’m just trying to basically get any 1% or 2% – whatever it might be to allow me to continue to make the gains from training that I can. And especially in lockdown, it was a really, really good opportunity to do so. When other people might not have been training as hard or not had the capabilities to train, this was my opportunity to take advantage of that.”
That is not all. As you will see below, the explosive star has been hard at it. But recovery is just as important as clocking up the running yards or the weights shifted. So while his PlayStation still takes a hammering at night, he has a drawer full of Maximuscle Protein Bites close to the console and he uses ZMA to aid his sleep – an integral and often under-appreciated aspect of recovery.
So what have the sessions been like in lockdown?
“The actual content of the running sessions would be different day to day,” Watson says of a typical week at home, before a graduated return to training was possible. “So Mondays were one of the sessions I found the hardest.
“I’d probably wake up around 9.30am – which was quite nice! I’d eat some breakfast, then I’d go and lift my lower-body weights. This could consist of a split squat, a heavy RDL (Romanian Deadlift – which involves a controlled lowering of the bar, often felt most in the hamstrings). I’d do some hip thrusts and a little bit of calf work. It’s not a massive session, but the split squat and RDL take it out your legs.
“I’d have about an hour’s break. In that time I’d probably have a Promax Lean shake and a bagel or something small between sessions.
“Then go out and do the run of 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off. That’s 75m in 15 seconds, then 15 off. You do that for eight minutes, then take two minutes off. You do that three times.”
It is gruelling and Watson sees this as an area to work on for him – he wants to improve his aerobic capabilities to go with the breakneck speed.
Tuesdays were similar in structure, but the weights session would be upper-body and then the on-field drill is a variation. There would be some speed-interval work, with short bursts of 20m runs – as many shuttles as he could do in 30 seconds, then two-and-a-half minutes of rest. Then it was into ‘Malcolms’.
The drill ostensibly means having cones in a straight line, ten metres apart. You lie face down at the halfway point, facing another cone. You pop up and sprint to the cone and do a down-and-up, run back past the halfway to do a down-and-up at the farthest cone, then return to centre. That is one rep. Typically, teams could do six reps in a set, called a Full Malcolm.
Thursday is another big day, so Watson would have Wednesdays off. But even on those days, recovery is key.
“I would spend time after all of these sessions, and even on the Wednesday, doing stuff,” Watson says. “So I would probably spend about 30 minutes in the sauna after my running session, which is pretty tough. At about 80 degrees it’s not easy!
“I just do that to try and recover, and also to try and help the endurance side of things. Then after 30 minutes, I’ll interchange it from maybe another ten with a cold bath…”
A cold bath? At this point many would say ‘no thanks,’ but this is part of Watson’s whatever-it-takes approach.
Train hard, refuel and get the recovery in, then you can think about switching off.
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