AFC Fylde stars were put through their paces earlier this week in a gruelling session organised by the University of Bolton as pre-season training kicked off.

The club agreed a partnership with the University’s sports science and medical departments last month that will see both AFC Fylde and Fylde Ladies granted access to the University’s state-of-the-art facilities for player screening.

The partnership also includes player testing during pre-season and Associate Lecturer John Lucas was on hand on Tuesday to push the squad – accompanied by AFC Fylde Head of Media Dan Agnew – to their limit.

The first team, including the six new summer signings, returned to training at the start of the week and faced an exhausting day of gym work and fitness testing as Dan explains in his diary of the day…

Tuesday morning

After portraying a tad too much unfounded confidence the day before to manager Dave Challinor, I woke up a little more nervous than anticipated on the morning of my big day. I had a shower, did ten press-ups and I was ready!

I arrived at Mill Farm in the pouring rain, only to be told by Chally that the weather was too bad to do the running session and that it had been postponed until the afternoon. Result! “I get the morning off then?” “No chance, gym this morning instead,” was the response.

This was news to me and bad news at that. The last time I had been to a gym, half of our current squad were still in primary school.

I trudged up to the new gym that has been assembled on the second floor of the stadium – which is very impressive by the way – for what I expected to be the worst hour and a half of my life.

John kicked off proceedings with an ‘activation session’ – basically a fairly intense warm-up routine – and I would have been happy to call it a day after that as I clutched for my diminishing bottle of water.

Alas, that was just the very start. John then talked us around a previously set-up circuit, explaining each exercise and how many reps we had to do for each.

I teamed up with Danny Rowe and Rhys Taylor (a slightly uneven match physique-wise I have to point out) and got started on the heavy duty battle ropes that you whip up and down for 30 seconds non-stop.

My partners promised they would count out the time in their head and would let me know when to finish. However, after what felt like an hour, I heard some giggling behind me. They had kindly allowed me to do double the time with two more 30 second reps left to do!  

On to the press ups and having already done the ‘big ten’ in the morning, three more sets of 20 left my arms ready to drop off. Only about 18 more exercises to do!

We battled around the room, completing various exercises – some participants quicker than others – the third set of pull ups proving particularly difficult and embarrassing (Neil’s video evidence will remain under lock and key).

Bouncing the 10kg Medicine Ball looked relatively straightforward in principle as Rowey bounced it above his head ten times with relative ease. My first challenge was picking up the damn thing! I raised it above my head and slammed it down and it barely bounced to waist height. It was made harder still when an unnamed first team manager pulled down my shorts halfway through!

We eventually finished the session, dripping with sweat and had a quick break before heading out for the afternoon’s running session. If I had thought the morning was difficult then I was in for a shock.

Tuesday afternoon

We started off with a run around the pitch, before some light warm-up drills. Forwards, backwards, side-to-side. “You’ve never done this before have you,” chuckled new boy Henry Jones. “Watch and learn,” I quipped, as I attempted not to trip over my own feet.

Puffing and panting, we got stuck into the real session. Two poles 20 metres apart lay in wait and all we had to do was run from pole to pole as quickly as possible for four minutes. Sounded reasonable.

I teamed up with James Hardy and goalkeepers Jay Lynch and Rhys. The keepers went first and made light work of the first drill.

It was then two three minute runs, three two minute runs and finally four one minute runs with very short breaks in between.

Jay barely had a bead of sweat on his tanned forehead, whilst Rhys did admirably well considering his new baby girl had been allowing him very little sleep of late.

Next up it was James and myself. I looked around at the fittest of the bunch laid in a crumpled mess on the ground following their final run and a sense of dread set in.

I started at a steady pace and completed the first four minutes in decent time – despite being lapped by James on at least one occasion (obviously I let him so not to show him up).

As the runs went on they got harder and harder and by the time I reached the final few I was ready to collapse with my lungs fit to burst.

I was constantly spurred on by the two goalkeepers at either ends of the poles and they were pivotal in getting me through to the end, much to the shock and disappointment of some! (Yes, I heard you Colin! Although our assistant manager did express his pride eventually)

I headed back to Mill Farm in the car with our three new Kidderminster recruits (great bunch) and although I tried to hide from Chally, I was practically thrown into the ice bath. I have never felt pain like it. However, it was a good excuse to show off my recently acquired t-shirt tan, much to the amusement of the of management team!

I could barely move the following day as the players arrived for more of the same and it certainly made me appreciated how much effort footballers put in behind the scenes, despite some misconceptions.

They may have a dream job on a Saturday afternoon, but I will stick to my desk and trusty laptop during the week thank you very much!