HEADING into a cryotherapy chamber in your boxer shorts might not be everyone’s idea of a happy Easter but it is one of the things some rugby league players do to get the maximum rewards from this busy Easter period.
Not all players are that lucky. Such chambers are expensive. But we’re fortunate at Hull FC that the club has paid for them and allowed access to them to help our recovery (it aids muscle pain) in the build-up to today’s game at St Helens.
It can catapult you up the table or strengthen your position – or go the other way – and it is a vital time. You have to give yourself the best chance moving forward but that doesn’t give you the right to play well.Gareth Ellis
So what do players actually do in those two days between playing Good Friday and again on Easter Monday?
We normally go for a meal after our games but, after we beat Hull KR on Friday at the KCOM Stadium on Friday, all our meals were boxed up and our protein shakes were ready so, once we were showered, we could get straight back to our training ground.
The cryo chambers were already set up waiting for us. I think they run at something like minus 130 degrees.
The lads did three cycles. You have your gardening gloves on, your boxer shorts, woolly socks and hat. There’s two chambers. You all go in the first chamber, then the siren goes off and you walk into the really cold area for three-minute bursts.
Then we were off to Total Fitness in Hull where we did some swimming. It was high knees, heel flicks and squats in the pool and then some sauna alternating with ice baths.
We repeated it all Saturday and didn’t do anything on our feet. We all had time slots to go into training for the same cycles in the Cryo chambers and then off to Total Fitness for some recovery.
The lads that are playing or might play on Monday did a bit more stuff – some weights and a little bit of field stuff – to get ready for Saints.
Sunday there was a bit of a team run – just going through the basics – but in all honesty that’s more of a mental battle than anything else.
You just have to get your head around that you’re doing it all again: playing. There’s 30-odd blokes going out there on Monday and there’ll be one or two hoping it will be an easy game.
But I suppose that’s where you get your energy – knowing you have prepared with all those things I have just mentioned. You’ve ticked all the boxes and that’s where you try and find your edge in this period – making sure you are as prepared as possible.
Obviously, it’s not ideal playing two games in 72 hours. No-one really wants to do it.
But you are doing it so you may as well attack it, accept it as a challenge rather than going into it half-hearted.
Use of the Cryo chambers and things like that are the fine margins looking for those little one-percenters that can hopefully make a difference.
It’s not just for Monday, either. It’s probably with the following weekend in mind as well – we play Wakefield Trinity on Sunday and some teams even play on Saturday.
It is really important in this period that you are really professional.
The more professional your environment is, the more rewards you will probably reap.
It can be a great period for a side if you can put together three wins during the Easter period of nine/10 days.
It can catapult you up the table or strengthen your position – or go the other way – and it is a vital time. You have to give yourself the best chance moving forward but that doesn’t give you the right to play well.
You still have to turn up with the right attitude. Even though you’ve done all those things, you can’t just expect to turn up and play well.
You still have to generate that mental toughness to put in a good performance on the Monday.
Obviously, Saints are on fire and the best team in the competition, probably by some way, at the moment.
I’m sure they’ll be looking to carry that on. They are all human, though, just as we are and the Easter period is a challenge for them, just as it is us, too.
Both clubs are coming off good derby wins – Saints beat Wigan on Friday – and we all will be looking to make the most of the two games in a short period to add four points to their league tally.
But it doesn’t matter who you are; it is always a challenge.
Some will be carrying knocks, feeling a bit tired and it really is how you now approach it mentally.
Lastly, it was great to see Super League break the attendance record for one round with 79,173 fans at the matches on Good Friday.
There were more than 22,000 at Wigan v Saints and more than 20,000 for our derby.
Super League had almost set the clubs a target to get that record and it’s brilliant over the weekend that we’ve exceeded it.
Speaking from my perspective, playing at the KCOM on Good Friday in front of 20,000 people is just the sort of reason I came out of retirement.
It was outstanding with passionate fans from both sides and to see the top tier at the KCOM Stadium full was brilliant.
I hope in the not too distant future that is the standard for Super League week in, week out. Hopefully, we can get there. Seeing those crowds was a great advert for the competition.
Unfortunately, at my age, all the cryotheraphy in the world is never going to get me in a fit state to play again on Monday so I’ll be sitting this one out!