Training program

I trained like AFLW player Kate McCarthy for a week to see if I could

Before the 2022 AFL Women’s League began, Melbourne-based writer Marnie Vinall wanted to put her body to the test. Could she keep up with the grueling workout routine of one of the game’s star players? She certainly tried …

I have always been amazed by the strength of AFL players; their tenacity, their agility and their prowess in the field. And while I’m self-aware enough to know that I’ll never quite reach professional athlete status, I thought it would be a fun experience to try and train like a football player. AFLW for a week.

So I contacted the AFLW star from St Kilda Kate mccarthy who kindly agreed to introduce me to his regular preseason training schedule so that I could try to keep up with it. Looking back it was a little ambitious, but I gave it a good solid crack.

OK, let’s go!


To start the week, McCarthy does main training in St Kilda. “Nick Dal Santo [coach] It will take us an hour of working on very basic but necessary foundational skills, ”she says, which is important because“ you can never be too good at the basics. “

So for this I roped my mate to go to our local soccer field to play handball and kick each other for about an hour. Pleasantly, a stranger in the park asked if we were gamers because we looked so professional so it really pumped up my tires. But no, the amount of sweat I had after an hour would suggest otherwise.


OK, today was a big one. We’re talking pre-workout activation, including one-legged glute bridges, crab steps, foam roll, and trigger ball, hitting 8-10k in a run and an hour in the gym. with a strong focus on the lower body, which means a lot of RDL, Nordic, split squats. This all takes about three hours, which was a lot longer than my usual 30-minute evening class.

So, I went to the gym! I already felt bad after the pre-run activation and only rode 5 km on the treadmill (five less than McCarthy). Then I did a few RDLs, lunges, and squats before bringing my shaky legs home.

At home, I made myself a smoothie thanks to the advice of McCarthy who emphasized the importance of recovery, including a protein shake that refills. “The easiest way to get nutrients,” she says.

She then goes on to a 15-minute ice bath and goes home “to get as much sleep as possible before working the next day”. She says “Sleep is the best form of recovery and should be the priority for anyone who increases their training load.”

I chose not to take an ice bath and took a cold shower instead. It was still a shock to the system. And then I slept like a baby.


Above ! McCarthy does an additional one to two upper body workouts per week. “With the amount of running we do, it can be difficult to maintain muscle mass, so these sessions are very helpful for me in maintaining any muscles that I have been able to develop in the offseason,” she tells me.

Focusing mainly on the isolated chest, back and biceps, triceps and shoulders exercises, I brought my body back to the gym for upper body exercises such as curls, extensions and raises.

I uploaded chest, back, bicep, and shoulder push-up tracks from YouTube, then started working on my upper body. About an hour in total.


Ok, today I woke up with a very sore body. My lower half had been killing for two days earlier and my chest was stiff and sore.

Fortunately, today would be a lighter session, McCarthy tells me, emphasizing fundamentals and education. This included running 5-6 km and then heading to the gym to focus on the pleasant and quick shifting of the load. “The main moves in this session are the trap bar deadlifts, bench press, sled drag (nice and heavy),” she said, which made me pretty nervous, to be honest.

Back at the gym, I went. I ran another 5km on the treadmill which at this point was a struggle. I couldn’t put the rest together as I felt really sore and tired at this point and I still had two days left. Sorry, Kate.


Friday was session number two.

And it was hard, I’m not going to lie. I only did about 30 minutes and quit because I didn’t want to push my already insanely sore body too much. Saturday still had to be done, after all.


Three and a half hours of main training! ARGH.

This involved traveling between 9 and 11 km, a simulation of a match and full ground exercises. So I went back down to the soccer field with a friend in tow. I certainly didn’t hit the 10k mark or so, but I got a heartbeat and the sweat was flowing. We stayed there for about two hours (with breaks, ngl).

Then, for post-workout recovery, McCarthy slips into an ice bath or pool to swim. I chose the latter and headed to my local pool to do a few laps which was good and refreshing while doing more cardio.


R&R, baby.

AFLW-level fitness takes more than sweat

I knew participating in the workout would be a lot, but I wasn’t really prepared for what a demanding fitness routine would be. We’re talking about 13 hours a week (while I’m used to about four) plus recovery. It’s also worth noting here that this huge training workload is on top of McCarthy’s full-time job (plus under-19 training and media work, which makes me want to take a nap) .

Even though it was hard, it felt good. I had never really slept better in my life, falling asleep almost directly every night. And despite my trembling limbs and aching chest at the end, I felt stronger and fitter. Also, I won’t lie, I wouldn’t mind having AFLW abs either.

As for McCarthy, she says her grueling workout regimen “can be a very delicate balancing act with work, training, and even trying to have some fun in society sometimes.

“I’ve learned sometimes the hard way, how important this balance is,” she says, including for her sanity and making sure she says no to certain things to have time for herself.

“Although my schedule seems quite busy and busy, I am someone who likes to be busy and organized,” she notes. “It’s about how much you can handle. Sometimes you only really discover it by “failing” or by engaging too much, but if we don’t fail, we don’t know our limits! “

The AFLW 2022 season started on January 7, 2022.

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