Personal fitness done well is a weekly or even daily affair. Motivating yourself through cold winters, wet mornings or recovering from injury can be difficult. But when your fitness is your profession, how do you keep going?

For 26 weeks of every year, rugby league players are pummelled, pounded and run to the point of exhaustion. And then, if they’re good, they’ve got to pull it all together for the season final.

“It is a long year,” admits Andrew Gray, trainer the St. George Dragons. “Not many competitions around in the world like the NRL or AFL where players spend so much energy a week and play such a long year.”

Tracking workouts

Team trainers go to great lengths in order to assess just how hard their players are working. At the Penrith Panthers, every player is tracked by a GPS unit, which records just how far they’re running and at what frequency.

“We have a tracking system, so on any given week you know exactly how much they’re doing,”explained Ronnie Palmer, trainer for the Penrith Panthers. “More importantly we track how far theyve run during the game, and their efforts of high speed, during the game. We can pretty much judge how far theyre going to go and just how much they do in the high speed range.”

Checking progress

State of Origin star Billy Slater appreciates the role technology has to play in the sport. “You always pushed yourself, but you can assess your work rate a lot more now. When you are performing well, youve got that data there to back that up,” he said. “The whole sports science and monitoring players with GPS is something that has pretty much taken over elite sports. Theyre certainly taking it to a new level, and everyones trying to get that little bit of an edge on everyone else.”

Updating plans

For Andrew, having solid data helps him build on the weaker aspects of his players’ games while ensuring they last the season. “Throughout the season we use the information we gather to develop players’ strength or conditioning,” he explained.

To his mind, the wealth of information has driven an improvement in the overall quality of the game: “The overall professionalism involved with their preparation has probably improved in this sport over a period of time.”