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Inside An AFL Preseason Camp

22 Dec 2015
Darren McMillan
As it is the holiday season I have decided to tone down the research a little and provide a light read giving you an insight into what happens on an AFL preseason camp.

The first consideration of a preseason camp is location. This year it was decided that Palm Cove in northern Queensland would be our host. Northern Queensland was chosen for its combination of high temperature and high humidity. Training in these tough conditions allows the body to make the following very beneficial adaptations for Aussie rules football:

• Improved perception of effort and fatigue,
• A lower heart rate at a given level of exercise intensity,
• Reduction in sweating threshold coupled with increased sweat rate,
• Reduced loss of water and electrolytes from the kidneys.

These physiological changes have been shown to increase performance in aerobic-based tests. Considering that there is no more challenging aerobic football code in the world than Aussie rules football, heat acclimation should prove very valuable.

Now we move on to discuss the amount of training to complete during the 6-night camp. As you would imagine it is fair to say “a tonne!” To obtain the most beneficial results from heat acclimation training it is best to do a variety of exercise intensities and have at least 5 sessions of 60 minutes. The group well and truly ticked that box and then some.

Motivation to get through this tonne of work was provided by the coach on the first night. He very succinctly detailed a plan about how the team can improve this year (details of which of course have to remain highly confidential!).

The next morning with the coach’s words still ringing in the player’s ears there was hint of nervous anticipation before the first big training session. That was quickly gone when the competitive work started. Just as the players were starting to melt the rain came in the form of droplets the size of your fist. Despite the heavy boots the players thought this was a blessing. The rest of the day involved strength work in the gym, meetings, and treatment in the form of physio and massage.

It would make for great reading if I had a good story for every day we were in Palm Cove but it would be lies. It is really a case of rinse and repeat each day, pushing the players as close to their individual limit as possible without breaking them down.

There was one highlight for the week in the form of paintball. Due to my fondness for banter at the club (and hence making myself a favourite target) I left the arena feeling like a bruised peach. Skin intact but soft and squishy underneath. It was all worth it though as our team ended the day as victors.

That about sums it all up really. A tonne of hard work done in tough conditions in the pursuit of improvement.


Chalmers, S., Esterman, A., Eston, R., Bowering, K., & Norton, K. (2014). Short-Term Heat Acclimation Training Improves Physical Performance: A Systematic Review, and Exploration of Physiological Adaptations and Application for Team Sports. Sports Med, 44(7), 971-988.

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