The Shadow’s Guide to: Health and Fitness
That time of the year when we shed our winter coats and wander round in nothing but Bermuda shorts and day-glow flips flops is fast approaching. And, as ever, I can expect to find a small queue of people at grounds across the County in front me playfully prodding at my taut six-pack, squeezing my packed biceps and looking with astonishments in their eyes.
“Tell me Tel”, they will ask in hushed voices as they take me to one side. “How do you do it? How do you stay in such incredible shape? How do you look so…well….fit?”
I know what they mean. How can it be that, year after year, I beat Alan Gallagher in a chase from the slips to the boundary after the cordon’s let another one through? How have I remained so fleet of foot, stealing singles even Jerry would turn down, and turning twos into threes with such regularity?
After much deep thought, I’ve decided that it’s time to share my secrets with fellow Greysmen so over the coming weeks I’ll be giving you the best advice you’ll ever get on getting into tip top condition and staying in shape for the coming season. I’ll be taking on some difficult subjects and I won’t shirk away from big issues like diet, hydration, exercise and the mental and psychological side of the game. I’m not going to shirk anything and I won’t pull any punches.
This week I’m going straight in with the big one: Exercise, especially pre-match warm ups.
I do much of my pre-match warm ups at home before the game, but I also notice an increasing number of Greysmen trying this winning routine outside the changing room before a game, or the really keen ones doing it as soon as they get to the Constant Service.
- Venture into a space outside your house – the back garden or the pavement area outside your front door will do. This will help loosen up all those leg muscles that have lain inert overnight, but don’t overdo it just yet. I recommend making not more than two or three steps into the external world at this early stage.
- Make sure you are securely anchored in an upright position. Placing your feet in parallel about eighteen inches apart should do it, and help get the right sense of balance. Breathe, confidently but not too deeply. Ensure that there are no hazards or impediments such as ponds or broken bottles nearby.
- When you feel confident that you can remain upright for a sustained period, place one or both hands in as many pockets about your person as possible until you find a rectangular and brightly coloured plastic pouch. This should help free up your upper body and start to get the blood circulating.
- Pull out a small cardboard rectangle from the pouch and extract a sliver of paper from it. Place some shredded tobacco from the pouch inside the paper.
- Only proceed to this step if you aren’t recovering from a recent health shock or expect to be working heavy machinery. Using only your forefinger and thumb, seal the paper around the tobacco, working your digits in a rapid forward and backwards motion. This will really get everything going, and soon this effort will translate into heat energy. Your hands and even your arms will be warmed up and ready to grab anything from bat shafts to a low nick off the pads at short square leg.
- Lean forward, poke your tongue out and slide it along an edge of the white tube in your hands. You’ll soon start to feel the old ticker pumping away under the Dray Horse on your shirt badge.
- Repeat the step in Stage Three above, but this time pull out a plastic tube containing butane. Work hard with your thumb to turn the wheel and spark it into life. If this feels a bit too strenuous then remember – no pain no gain! Stay in the moment!
- Pull the ignited tube to your mouth, close your lips around it and inhale deeply. Now you’ll have any number of muscles, sinews and tendons working in your upper body. The heat will really start flowing through.
- Repeat step 8 about 15 to 20 times. This is proper cardio-vascular exercise, approved of by health officials the world over, as well as doing wonders for your hand-eye coordination. And think of all those calories you’re burning!
- Once this is complete, get your whole body working in unison from top to bottom. Pull the tiny sliver of tar-stained paper out of your mouth using a partially extended arm and in one flowing movement, throw it to the ground, lift a leg by about three to four inches and crush it into the ground using a rapid twisting motion. You may need to sit and rest at this point, but this is a natural part of the process. You can’t rush a good warm-up!
- Now you’re ready for anything: running in off thirty paces and bowling ten overs of rapid pace, a sprint from midwicket to deep fine leg to catch a skier or a big hundred constructed out of well-placed ones and twos.
Next time: how to ensure that you’re properly hydrated in the days and hours before a big game.