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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021

'The gym is not an obsession, but it's not far off'

In his second fitness column for The42, former Munster out-half Jonny Holland discusses life after professionalism.

A watching brief during a B&I Cup game.
A watching brief during a B&I Cup game.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Over the next 12 weeks, Jonny Holland will be one of three leaders — including Cork ladies footballer and Ireland International Saoirse Noonan and The42′s own Ryan Bailey — taking part in our Follow Fitness series supported by Avonmore Protein Milk.

While Jonny will focus on nutrition, Saoirse will look at combining multiple top-level sports and Ryan will train for his first triathlon.

If you’ve any questions for our leaders, be sure to use the comments section and you can sign up to follow one, two or all three leaders here. 

WHEN I FIRST came out of the game, I said to myself that I’d have even more time for exercise. It was part of my job before, but now it was going to be something I could enjoy in my own time.

But what I forgot was that I was being paid to be in the gym with Munster. Now when I’m working out, I’m not working, so I have to change my mindset a little bit.

I do find it a bit tough not being part of a structured programme but I like exercising and I don’t stop thinking about it until I get it done, so I do it early in the day.

It’s not an obsession, but it’s not far off. I’ve been doing it since I was 16 and I’ve never had a problem with putting in the hours.

Younger days, bigger workload

Back when I was in the Munster academy, I remember I’d work away in the morning, go out for lunch, and then come back for a second session in the afternoon.

I might have had weights in the morning or some physio and foam-rolling, that kind of thing. I might do some speed on a Monday with some weights as well.

In the afternoon, I’d usually have skills training or some bit of rugby. As a kicker, I’d probably do a little bit more after the morning session and then once the afternoon session was done too.

Jonathan Holland lines up a kick During a joint training session between Connacht and Munster. Source: INPHO/James Crombie

On some Tuesdays and all Thursdays I’d have club training. I’d have a few days off but you were never really off as we always had a flex or a stretch or extra weights to do.

Putting in the hours

When I graduated to the senior side of things, it was very different. In fact, our whole structure changed in Munster just before I finished up. Rassie [Erasmus] and Jacques [Nienaber] came in and they changed things up a good bit.

We used to do the main squad sessions on Tuesday and Thursday with, kind of, a day off on Wednesday. I say kind of because there’s always something to be done whether it’s video work on the opposition, foam rolling or working on specialist drills for your position.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was the real workload and Thursday would be a proper day off. Friday was the captain’s run and we had the game at the weekend.

Obviously I didn’t last too much longer after the boys came in and I’d actually say that’s half the reason the injury came to the fore because Monday-Wednesday was a tough slog and everyone definitely felt it.

And it wasn’t like we were going home at lunch either. We’d have a couple of rugby sessions, a lot of meetings and things like that.

The workload definitely went up when they came in and, speaking to a couple of lads now, the workload has maybe gone up a little bit more.

Speaking of the injury, I probably didn’t help myself. I just couldn’t cope with not being able to go 100% and I ended up wrecking the coach and physio’s heads because I was frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong, some lads are happy being told what to do and they let the process happen.

But I was one of those that was trying to push it further and questioning the physio when I wasn’t allowed to do a certain movement.

I would show them that I could do it which would cause a panic. With the nature of my injury we had to be very careful during the rehab stage so it wouldn’t happen again

But the staff knew what I was like and what other guys were like and for them, knowing the character in front of you is as important as knowing what they’re physically capable of. As you go through the system a bit more, they kind of get to know you so it becomes easier.

Learning to limit myself

Even now, my love of exercise can get me in trouble. I destroyed my hamstring in the gym recently doing a dead lift that nobody cares whether I completed or not.

I didn’t have to go so heavy but, for myself, I wanted to and I really gave my hamstring a right tug.

I think I just got so frustrated at being hurt again that I didn’t stop. I knew I hurt it — it kind of went dead but the pain was gone straight away. That made me think that it had detached and gave me a bit of a fright.

I couldn’t deal with my hamstring holding me back again, especially when it was an exercise that a lot of my rehab was focused around.

But I think I’ve learned from that… maybe.

Weekly goal

My goals tend not to be straightforward and you’ll get used to that over the coming weeks.

Generally I try to make sure I’m in the gym five days a week. Thats keeping it to just five days rather than six or seven!

The main focus this week will be to progress on the numbers on my weights program and get a few more steps in now that Cork Con training is over for a few weeks.

You can follow Jonny’s journey over the next 12 weeks right here:

About the author:

Jonny Holland

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