Pro player turned personal trainer Henry Barratt offers his advice on managing your body throughout a tough campaign

Five rest and recovery tips to survive a long rugby season

Henry Barratt’s professional rugby career was cut short due to injury at the age of 25 and now he works as a personal trainer.

Before retiring in 2008, he had played for Harlequins, Wasps and England U20, and he has dedicated the past ten years to teaching others how to train to an elite level. Now he is going to give you his best rest and recovery advice.

“While it is important to push yourself throughout the season to help drive your team and career forward, a lot can change in a very short period of time and managing your body is crucial to ensuring a long and successful career,” he says.

Whether you’re a professional player, semi-pro or play purely for the love of the game, here is Barratt’s advice on how to maximise rest and recovery to help you get through the long season ahead.

1. Don’t neglect mid-season recovery protocols

“It is no coincidence that the players who take the time to follow recovery protocols are the ones who are the most professional, detailed and serious about the longevity of their career.

Rest and recovery tips to survive a long rugby season

Chilling out: Australia prop Sekope Kepu in an ice bath (Getty Images)

“Massages, ice baths, regular check-ups and treatments with physios/chiropractors/osteopaths all go a long way to body maintenance. It is simply not possible to survive the season and the physicality required without having treatment, no matter how good you feel.”

2. Listen to your body

“No one needs to be a hero in every training session (unless you have a serious point to prove). When muscles get tight, train appropriately. Help the coaches and conditioning staff to understand your body so it’s no surprise to them if you need to rest from a session.

“Too many times players get injured in training through fatigue. Why push through that last set/sprint, when you feel your body is telling you to slow down or stop?”

Rest and recovery tips to survive a long rugby season

Taking a break: Billy Vunipola sits out England training (Getty Images)

3. Game management

“If you’re likely to be playing 30-40 matches per season, work with your coaches to plan the year. Where in the season are you going to be getting some rest? Can you be managed through the season, resting during some of the perceived easier games?

“Don’t ever be tempted to play three games in eight days, it’s just not worth it. Injury rates go through the roof when players have to periodically contend with this scenario with fixture lists. Fatigue is way too high to contemplate performing at the level required.”

Related: Check out Henry Barratt’s website here.

4. Prevention is better than cure

“Work out how many physio/massage/stretch sessions you need to do per week to keep in top condition and allow your body to recover. Add regular mobility/stretch sessions, even look at the power of learning to breathe effectively for relaxation, calming the bodies sympathetic nervous system.

Rest and recovery tips to survive a long rugby season

Body work: All Black Sam Cane going through his gym routine (Getty Images)

“I would suggest most rugby players lack true flexibility, have never come across breathing strategies and spend zero time addressing these areas.”

5. Although part of a team, focus on your individual needs

“As well as making the most of what the club has to offer, is there anything else you can be doing outside of this that will help keep you strong both physically and mentally? Is it a mentor, therapist, acupuncturist, speed coach? Someone to look at your individual needs with a different perspective?

“Be prepared to pay for this service and see this as an investment to the longevity of your career. That said, it has to be done with consent and in symmetry with the club’s training. Don’t be the lone ranger and potentially alienate yourself from the club.”

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