Tom Johnson: Tales of fierce training and festive temptations for the Exeter Chiefs
First up, a happy New Year to everyone, I hope you all enjoyed the festive period.
I think people assume rugby players get a lot of time off over Christmas and the New Year, but actually it's our busiest time of the season.
Rob Baxter's very good, he gave us Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off this year, but it can be quite a tough as we don't get a lot of family time. We get sporadic days and then very rarely can we enjoy a New Year's Eve, because most of the time it will fall during the week when we've got a game.
Normally we do get Christmas Day off, but if it can't be worked any other way it can't be helped.
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I was out injured so went home to Cheltenham on the Friday before the Gloucester game, then had to come back Sunday morning for training before going back home to see the family. For some of the boys who live in the Midlands it's even worse – they put some proper big mileage in.
It can make for some trying times in the car. That M5 corridor to get into the rest of England feels like the worst road in the world sometimes. And, when we do get some downtime we have to be really careful what we eat, especially at this time of year.
We get a big talk around the beginning of December about how we have to watch what we eat. Believe me, the boys like to eat, and we can eat lots, but we try to stay away from the mince pies and things which are bad for you.
We get lists of what we should be trying to eat if we want to eat lots, but they also give us fat testing – once before Christmas and then afterwards, so you can't really go mad. They would know.
Last year everyone did really well afterwards, except for one player, who will remain nameless. Rob came in and said he was really pleased with us all, we'd all gone down, except for Player A, 'who seems to have eaten for the lot of you'.
He had to do a little bit of extra fitness for that, but just being ridiculed in front of the boys will be enough to stop him doing that again.
Nothing's regimented though, because at the end of the day they can't see what we're eating. It's your body and your training. If you don't eat properly, there will be side- effects and you'll pay for it.
We do tend to govern each other, and if anyone's getting a bit porky it gets noted, they get a bit of grief and then they work a bit harder or watch what they're eating.
Rob's a big believer in terms of us governing ourselves.
We're looking to bounce back this week, after what felt like a defeat against Bath last Saturday, even though we got the draw to keep our unbeaten home run going.
So we need to put a big performance in against Northampton this weekend.
They have some very good players in the pack, with a very solid back row, so we really need to turn up as a unit of forwards.
There are teams that lay down certain challenges and Northampton, you know, are going to test you up front.
A win would lead us nicely going back into the Heineken Cup at Clermont the week after. But more of that next week.