NEWCASTLE Falcons centre James Fitzpatrick admits the memory of his first pre-season with the club will never leave him.
Now three years into a burgeoning professional career, the former South Shields truck mechanic was given a painful introduction to life at the elite end of the game.
Stepping up from amateur level after shining for Westoe and Blaydon, Fitzpatrick said: “We were doing an absolutely brutal hill-running session up Whickham Bank, near Blaydon Rugby Club.
“My calves were burning and I couldn’t walk afterwards, but your body just adapts and after a couple of months you get used to training at that level every day.
“Going from being an amateur training two nights a week to being a pro and doing triple sessions every day, it does take time.
“Even for the seasoned lads it takes a lot out of them, but you get the benefits later on in the season for the hard work you put in now.”
Such is the life of a professional player these days that the days of the two-month off-season booze binge are consigned to history.
Fitzpatrick said: “I prefer to hit pre-season running by training during my holidays, rather than sitting at home getting fat and lazy.
“All my mates in South Shields were at work anyway during the day, so I kept myself ticking over with bits of training. It has worked out well, and even though we are being given a week off later in the summer I won’t be drinking or anything like that. It’s just not worth it.”
Putting in the hard yards during the opening fortnight back on duty, he added: “The first day we had a yo-yo test, which is basically running until you can’t keep going any longer.
“That was a pretty full-on way to begin, and it has got harder each day. We are building into it, and we are having to put in five or six sessions every single day.
“It is tiring work, but as well as our gym training we are also doing skills, defence and a lot of good quality rugby. It is not like the old days where you were purely doing fitness for the first two months.”