Our fitness coach in the spotlight. In December 2018, Ruwen Faller joined Leipzig from FC Schalke 04. Since then, the former sprinter has been responsible for the fitness of the RBL players. The 39-year-old and his three man team of fitness coaches have been particularly busy recently. Their mission: to get the team ready for the final burst.
In this interview, Ruwen Faller talks about how the Bulls prepared for the restart, the first game back and why he avoids footraces with our players.
Ruwen, have recent weeks been particularly difficult for you as a fitness coach?
"It's been tough for everybody, because nothing like it has ever happened. We needed to get over that first. But I get the feeling that we've done the best we can. We tried to see the fact that we could ramp things up bit by bit in a positive light. When it was confirm that we'd restart, you could see that it was good for the lads to have a goal again."
How did you keep the players fit in that first phase, when training seemed a long way off?
"We created a programme of light balance, power and spin exercises. We all had exercise bikes at home, as well as other devices, like heartrate monitors with a chest band, to track their progress. It was good for a while, but unsustainable for eight or ten weeks. Footballers don't like fitness and interval training without the ball. Thankfully we were able to return to training in small groups quite quickly."
How different is training in small groups as opposed to as a whole team?
"There was a massive difference, because the smaller groups were confined to mini pitches. So there was a lot of bustle to begin with. In addition we had to compensate for the loss of workload that you get with an 11 vs 11 game on a big pitch, we did that with smaller drills. But it isn't the same in a one vs one. Generally, going into smaller groups was a good way for the players to get used to having a ball at their feet, and for them to have a bit of change. But of course it isn't the perfect way to prepare for a game."
You didn't have two weeks of training to get ready for the restart. Was it enough to get the team ready to play again?
"We all agreed that it should get back underway as quickly as possible, even if you only have a week of training. It wasn't perfect, but we had to starting playing games again. So you have to put some things behind you, such as fitness or optimal conditions. It's clear that there were never going to be any fireworks in that first match, and that it wouldn't go 100% smoothly. That'll come in the second and third games, when we've all rediscovered a bit of rhythm."
How fit were the boys after the break? Were they ultimately a bit sluggish in the first game?
"Surprisingly, every team in the Bundesliga did quite well. There were some interesting games, in which there was some good football. I was pleasantly surprised. I couldn't see any particular deficiencies with our team either. It was more about fitness. These things will return quickly with training and matches. Everything else is irrelevant."
Is there a greater risk of injury after such a long break and three-game week coming up?
"We have a big squad and three-games during a normal season. So there isn't too much extra workload. We'll deal with it all as best we can, and will make sure that no player plays 90 minutes in all three games next week. However, there is, of course, a risk that one or two will pick up an injury, but these happen normally too."
Does your role as fitness coach have more importance in these circumstances?
"In the first couple of weeks, fitness coaches were probably busier than ever before. It was primarily up to them that training was able to be done. But fitness has great importance normally as well, this is why most clubs have two or three fitness coaches."
You were a successful sprinter yourself. Can you keep up with the players?
"Football is increasingly becoming an athlete's game, and therefore more reliant on sprinting. We've got a young team with lots of speed and pace, so it's getting harder and harder for me to keep up. Time catches up to us all, I need to deal with that (laughs)."