How To Train & Keep Yourself Fit Over The Festive Period


The festive period is well underway at this stage, but with that comes some serious temptations that most of us are unable to pass up. And that’s fair enough. It’s Christmas after all. We’re entitled to enjoy ourselves.

But at the same time most of us either want to get fit, or stay fit over the festive period – especially those of us who have been playing rugby. The last thing you want is to throw away all that hard work done in pre-season and everything that has been done throughout the campaign so far.

And with that Canterbury has devised a training plan to help people across the country to get #RugbyFit. Canterbury has worked with Irish training experts to produce a guide which helps combine not only the physical aspects of rugby – but also helps you become mentally stronger.

This plan uses 10 different exercises, both physical and mental, to activate and strengthen core muscle groups to perform at their peak and mentally prepare for a physically demanding 80 minutes.

Strength and Power (Created by Brian Keane)

  1. EXERCISE – Barbell Push

SETS/REPS – 5 sets of 5 repetitions

WHY – Pushing an object away from the body mimics the action of a hand off. In this exercise, you are going to use one hand to push the barbell away from your body to mimic a handoff (although you can use two hands).


  • Stand in an upright position
  • Grab the barbell with one hand
  • Fix one leg in front of the other and use your back leg for support
  • Grab the top of the barbell underneath the plate
  • Drop your elbow back as the weight descends and explode it back to the starting position, driving through your shoulders
  1. EXERCISE – Barbell Bench Press

SETS/REPS – 5 sets of 5 repetitions

WHY – This builds strength throughout the entire chest, shoulders and triceps and can help to break through tackles more effectively within the match situation.


  • Lay on your back on a bench with your feet planted on the floor
  • Grip the bar approximately 2 feet apart (or at a comfortable point, wider than shoulder width) with your arms straight above your chest
  • Slowly and under control, lower the bar down to the level of your chest
  • Pause for one second and explode upwards
  1. EXERCISE – Barbell Squat

SETS/REPS – 5 sets of 5 repetitions

WHY – This exercise builds strength, primarily in the legs, hips, and core, but more importantly it develops balance. Executed properly, squats can help prevent injury as they strengthen the hips, knees and ankles to stay in correct alignment. Aiming for a slow eccentric muscle contraction (lowering part) and exploding out of the bottom of the squat will help you improve power and speed.


  • Position the barbell on the squat rack so that the bar sits about 3 inches lower than your shoulders
  • Position your hands evenly on the bar and back up and under the bar so that it rests comfortably on your shoulders. Palms should face forward
  • Feet facing forward, squat down with the bar in a controlled motion. Maintain a straight back at all times, keep your torso up, brace your abs and lats and push your hips out as you descend, preventing your knees from passing your toes
  • Keeping your gaze fixed ahead of you, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor
  • On the ascent drive through your heels, maintaining the correct posture as above until you reach standing position without locking your knees

Embrace the elements. Built for outdoor training, the Tech Drill Top features Canterbury’s Vaposhield tech, a water repellent technology that repels water off the fabric surface keeping you dry both inside and outside. VapoDri technology is incorporated into the Lightweight Training jacket and Woven Track Pants keeping you cool, dry and comfortable during your workout.

Mental Agility (Created by Pat Divilly)

  1. EXERCISE – Visualisation and Box Breath Exercise

WHY – Visualisation is a means of programming the sub-conscious mind to improve confidence ahead of the game and mentally prepare to respond to different scenarios on match day. The box breath exercise helps to relax the body and is a great way of calming a player who might be overwhelmed or anxious ahead of the game.


  • Find a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed for 10 minutes
  • Sit or lie down with your eyes closed
  • Take a 4-second breath in through your nose
  • Hold for 4 seconds
  • Follow with a 4-second exhale and 4-second hold. Repeat a couple of times.

Following this, it’s time to mentally run through the scenario of the game. Visualising in this way will help to build confidence and remember past successes from training or matches. Repeat this process in the same undisturbed environment until you feel calm and energised.

  1. EXERCISE – Trigger

WHY – ‘Trigger’ words can help you establish focus and concentration, which can lead to improved performance. Your trigger word can be a letter or word that inspires you or reminds you of how you feel/who you are when you are at your best. Examples could be ‘warrior’, ‘resilient’, ‘immaculate’ or ‘champion’. The trigger word must mean something to you as a player and can act as a means of catching a potential downward spiral. So perhaps after missing a kick or dropping a ball you can look down and remind yourself of how you want to perform rather than focusing on what has gone wrong.


  • A ‘trigger’ word can be placed on a piece of tape on your boot or around your wrist for in-game motivation
  • Add your ‘trigger’ into your phone for a pre-match reminder or set a daily alarm to go off at a certain time, to constantly reinforce your message
  • The alarm should prompt a word or sentence of meaning that allows you to remind yourself of where you are trying to go and who you are trying to be.
  • Alternatively pick 3 traits you like about yourself as a player
  1. EXERCISE – Ice Baths

WHY – Ice baths are great for physical recovery but can also be a means of ‘active meditation’. There are many times in a game when you might feel uncomfortable. This feeling can manifest itself in the form or negative thoughts when you try to avoid discomfort or run away from it. Facing up to the discomfort by controlling your breathing and narrowing the focus rather than panicking, you can move forwards towards the result you want. The ice bath teaches us this.


  • Breathe deeply for 1-2 minutes before stepping into the ice bath. This will allow you to block out any distractions and really narrow your focus
  • Step into the ice and continue the deep breaths
  • Look to regulate your breathing even when the shock of stepping in the cold water hits. The body will react and want to run away, so this technique will enable you to show that you are comfortable in the uncomfortable through focus.

If an ice bath is unavailable:

  • Start with a warm shower and place the attention on the breath, taking deep breaths in and out
  • Turn the shower temperature as cold as you can for 30-60 seconds
  • Look to continue the breathing pattern of controlled deep inhales and exhales as you embrace the cold! You may panic at first and move to panic breathing, experiencing shallow and fast breaths into the chest. Instead focus and regulate your breathing
  • You can finish your shower on hot or cold depending on how you are feeling

Check out the Canterbury cold weather training range available on

Endurance (Created by Colm Moran)

  1. EXERCISE – Sprints (acceleration drills)

SETS/REPS – 4 sets of 15m sprints (allowing for full recovery in between)

WHY –. Acceleration is how fast you can go from a starting position to near max speed. To do that you have to generate as much horizontal force as possible, as fast as possible (without falling down). This particularly benefits the muscles of the lower limbs; glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and will help build explosiveness. It also will help improve your sprinting technique making you faster. Sprinting drills are best performed on the pitch, after a thorough warm up.


Key things to look out for good acceleration:

  • A synchronised explosive leg and arm action
  • A piston like leg action, with low leg swing, and optimise the direction of forces to maximise horizontal velocity (acceleration)???
  • Posture: imagine as if you are sprinting up a hill, stay long
  • Leg action: drive your knee low and forward like your punching something with it
  • Push the ground away when you strike it
  • Arm action: snap the arms down and back overall in a powerful piston like motion 
  1. EXERCISE – Conditioning runs

SETS/REPS – 16 sets of 50m runs (with 15s breaks in between)

WHY – Conditioning runs are about building up your cardiovascular fitness and endurance in the muscles in your legs, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Unlike ‘acceleration’ above, we are trying to run as fast as possible over a long distance in ‘absolute speed.’ When you are running at a slow pace around the pitch this technique isn’t as important, but if you’re sprinting 40-60m it’s essential. The best place to perform conditioning runs is on the pitch or on a treadmill. Make sure you do a thorough warm up first. The adaptations in the muscles in your legs, your heart and your ability to deal with lactic acid is what will make you a fitter player.


  • Start by picking a distance that you can comfortably cover over 15s. We’ve taken 50m as an example
  • Synchronise your leg and arm action to maximise front knee lift (hip flexion). When your foot strikes the ground it should strike as close to your centre of mass as possible to maximise vertical forces and minimise breaking forces
  • Posture: keep tall
  • With the front leg keep high heels and knees up
  • With the back leg spin the earth as if you are running on a ball
  • Whip arms down and back continuously 
  1. EXERCISE – Cycling

SETS/REPS – 20-30 mins

WHY – This is beneficial for building the endurance in the muscle of the lower limb: quads glutes, hamstrings and calves. The nature of this type of training will allow you to build endurance in your leg muscles and their ability to deal with lactic acid to improve your cardiovascular fitness.


This can be performed on a stationary bike in the gym or on a road/mountain bike. Hill training, or cross county mode is a great way to build conditioning for rugby. On your bike in the gym select hill/cross-country mode. From there adjust your resistance to something manageable. The lowest resistance should be very, very easy, it should be almost total recovery. The highest resistance should be an effort level of 8/9 out of 10.

  • Start off on resistance 2
  • Every 30s increase the resistance by 2 until you reach level 10 or an effort level of 8/9 out of 10
  • Drop the resistance back down to 2 and repeat the climb back up to 10
  1. EXERCISE – Rowing

SETS/REPS – 30/30sec work/rest interval training. 2 sets of 10min rowing

WHY – This works the calves, hamstrings, quads, back and biceps and is another great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Like to the bike it allows you to offload the joints (ankles, knees and hips). If you are doing a lot of running and picking up running injuries this is a great way to improve your fitness and reduce your risk of injury.


  • On the Main Menu, choose Select Workout.
  • Select Custom List.
  • Select 30/:30r—An interval workout of 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated until you stop rowing (your last complete interval is the last one recorded).
  • We recommend you start with 10mins work time, followed by a 5-10 minute rest, and repeat for a second set.

You can also download all the training plans here on the Canterbury Training Hub.

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