If you’ve set yourself a New Year’s resolution to join a gym and get fit, it will probably help your cause if you have a good example to follow.
Those who have just started out on their journey towards a healthier, fitter 2015 could be finding
the going extremely tough. We’ve all been there. It’s so easy to give up as you labour towards your 5
km target on the treadmill, but it’s vital that you keep going.
To give you some added motivation, throughout January Fitness First Clubs will give you some insight
into how top sports stars manage to meet their own fitness goals. We’re not saying that by
emulating these people you’ll suddenly be capable of playing football for a Premier League team or
put yourself in contention for a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games, but you will hopefully garner
a few tips that will help you to achieve your own targets in 2015.
First up is superstar footballer Gareth Bale.
Why should I emulate this person?
At the time of writing, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale is the world’s most expensive footballer. The
Spanish club paid a reported £85 million+ to Tottenham Hotspur in order to secure the Welshman’s
services at the start of the 2013/14 season, and Bale went on to lift the UEFA Champions League in
his first campaign, scoring in Real’s 4-1 final victory over city rivals Atletico Madrid in May 2014.
Despite being burdened with a huge price tag and relentless pressure from the media, Bale finished
his first season in Spain with a more-than-respectable 22 goals and 15 assists. Although the former
Premier League Player of the Year has accomplished a great deal in his career thus far, at the age of
25 it can be argued that Bale is yet to hit his prime.
If you’re looking for a strong fitness role model, Bale is a safe bet.
What makes Bale so special?
While he’s undoubtedly an immensely-talented footballer, Bale is the epitome of the modern day
footballing superstar in that he is an amazing athlete.
Renowned for his phenomenal pace and ability to outrun most other players with the ball at his feet,
Bale possesses almost super-human strength in his legs and upper body - something you simply
cannot achieve without plenty of hard work in the gym. In September 2013, shortly after Bale signed
for Real, Spanish TV channel La Sexta reported that the winger managed to reach 25 mph in one
sprint during a game against Villarreal. This was just 2 mph slower than Usain Bolt’s effort when he
set a new world record in the 100 metre sprint event, adding further weight to claims that elite
footballers are now in the same league as world-class athletes.
You only have to look at this clip of Bale’s winning goal for Real against Barcelona in last season’s
Copa Del Rey final to see just how devastating he can be when he’s in full flow.
How does he do it?
Without having access to Real Madrid’s training facilities, it’s impossible to say for sure exactly what
Bale’s daily fitness regime consists of. As with all footballers, we can speculate that Bale partakes in
plenty of cardio work.
He played 3,496 minutes for Real last season, according to official club statistics, and by looking back
at figures that were published during his time at Tottenham Hotspur, you can appreciate just how
much of this time would have been spent running at full throttle. Indeed, the EA Sports Player
Performance Index showed that in a game between Newcastle and Spurs in 2012, Bale covered 8.9
km whilst sprinting - the second-longest distance in the entire league that particular weekend.
For those of you hitting the treadmill this January, the thought of jogging the best part of 9 km will
be daunting enough, so can you imagine how much fitness, strength and fine-tuning would be
required to sprint this distance within a 90-minute period? Most of us mere mortals will never reach
such levels, but to stand any sort of chance of emulating Bale, you’ll need to build up your leg
muscles and work on your stamina.
In a guest Q&A session for FourFourTwo magazine, Bale once said that being able to change
direction quickly is essential for footballers, especially wingers who rely on their pace, and so it’s a
good idea to lay out a series of cones diagonally and then sprint in between them. This, he
suggested, helps you to improve your footwork, making it easier for players to ride challenges during
What’s Bale’s secret weapon?
While you may be focusing on more traditional gym work this month, spending plenty of time lifting
weights, pounding the rowing machine and trying to enhance your stamina on the treadmill, you
shouldn’t be afraid to try something different.
More top athletes and sports stars are incorporating yoga into their fitness routines, as it is known to
offer many benefits. It was widely reported that regular yoga sessions helped Ryan Giggs to play at
the top level of English and European football for so many years, and it seems that his fellow
Welshman Bale has also profited from years of stretching exercises.
Writing in his Daily Mail column in January 2012, ex-professional footballer Jamie Redknapp
explained that the fitness coaches at Tottenham - for whom Bale was playing at the time - frequently
encouraged the players to take part in yoga sessions. Any footballer who is running at such
phenomenal speeds over the course of a 90-minute game is in real danger of pulling a hamstring, so
it’s vital that they are supple. Yoga helps them to achieve this.
If you look at this YouTube montage put together by Sky Sports, you can see just how often Bale
changes direction at full speed, putting his muscles under extreme strain.
Unsurprisingly, Bale has suffered injuries in the past, most recently in his gluteus, but there’s no
doubt that regular stretching exercises can help to minimise the risk of injury. Yoga is also said to
improve mental wellbeing, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
The evolution of footballers
In the past, professional footballers could get away with drinking alcohol and smoking before playing
in big games, but things have changed dramatically.
As mentioned, footballers are now finely-tuned athletes and are certainly better fitness role models
than many of their predecessors. Gareth Bale is a fine example to follow if you are looking for
inspiration in your quest to become fitter and healthier in 2015.
If you require expert help from a personal trainer, why not sign up for a membership with
Already a member? Visit Fitness First to find a pair of men's football boots so you can follow in Bale's footsteps.