Read time ~ 6 mins

Traditionally your conditioning may have been any of the following; road running long slow distances, sprints or on field shuttles with the same distance for everyone.

GAA sports are intermittent in nature (slow, go, repeat) and place demands on both the anaerobic and aerobic systems (1, 2) due to the static to dynamic bursts, varied movement speeds and changes of direction.

In addition, there are decision-making challenges and individual skills, all of which are required to be performed under pressure/fatigue of the game and the threat of collisions.

The stop-start nature of these sports shows a need for an increase in anaerobic energy contribution (3). However, high-intensity aerobic power and conditioning are critical for success in field sports (4).

Studies have found that higher-level athletes possess greater aerobic power than lower-level athletes. The greater the running demand of position the greater the maximal aerobic speed (MAS) required for athletes to compete at a higher level.

Sidenote: typically we see the midfielders cover the most distance but Athletes cover an average~8-9km per match (4)

Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) is the lowest speed of running which VO2max, which is a fancy word for maximal oxygen uptake, occurs.

Research shows us that MAS (100% or above) is a critical factor for improving aerobic power. It has also been shown that performing a number of short intervals at 100% MAS or above was a more effective method for building aerobic power than the more traditional style of Long Slow Distance (LSD) training such as never-ending laps of the field or road running.

Research shows high-intensity intervals of 15-30 seconds accompanied by 10-30 seconds of either active recovery (40-70% MAS) or passive rest, continued for set times between 4-10 minutes and repeated for 2 or more sets significantly enhances aerobic power and capacity. Sounds familiar because that is what we have been focusing on.

Improvements in your maximal aerobic power are driven more so by the intensity (% MAS) and volume (time/sets) as opposed to the work:rest ratios etc.

When coaching Teams/Athletes for a sport underlined by running,  I perform a test to find out your MAS; which is measured in m/s. We can then use each person’s individual distances needed to place appropriate demands on your body.

In a sentence, my MAS could be 4m/s and yours could be 5.2m/s, we play a game that has on average 15 second intermittent bouts of high intensity- so we train at this interval time but only do 60 meters (100% of my MAS and 76% of yours) or we run 78m (100% of your MAS and 130% of my MAS).

In traditional formats of conditioning, players would all run the same distance. Let’s say my MAS is 4m/s and yours is 5m/s; we are both told to do 60m run in 15s. That time and distance is 100% of my MAS and only 86% of your MAS. So, while I am being pushed to my MAS it’s not as effective as above it could be and you are nowhere near your required intensity to improve your aerobic power efficiently. Therefore, you can see the need to individualise programs.

The benefits of MAS, it can be tested and performed on field where it is also very transferable to the demands of GAA sports; decelerations, change of direction, accelerations.

The other benefit of this system is it causes game-like fatigue and can be a great way to train other aspects requiring improvement such as technical and tactical elements of the sports while taxed with game-like fatigue.

I use small-sided games (SSGs) between sets to enhance other components, usually with some restrictions or rules to allow for focus on certain attributes (i.e. two touches only, or ball on the ground, 5 passes in a row is a score etc,etc). The grid size,  players involved and rules are all calculated to provide the desired tax on players.

Most skills are coached in non-game-like scenarios (low Heart rate, non-fatigued, sub-maximal speed and unchallenged by opposition) which is fine in a developmental stage however to enhance game skills, you need to replicate the demands of the game.

At times, we often see athletes unable to perform skills at game pace and this results in them having to revisit (fundamental) skills at a developmental pace to refine them and then incrementally increase to game speed.

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  1. Baker, D. & N. Heaney. Some Normative Data for Maximal Aerobic Speed for Field Sport Athletes: A Brief Review. Journal of Australian Strength & Conditioning(in review).
  2. Baker, D. Recent trends in high-intensity aerobic training for field sports. Professional Strength & Conditioning. 22(Summer): 3-8. 2011.
  3. Buchheit, M. The 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test: Accuracy for individualizing interval training of young intermittent sport players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 22(2):365-374. 2008.
  4. J Sports Sci 22: 255-256, 2004.
  5. Keane, S, Reilly, T, and Hughes, M. Analysis of work-rates in Gaelic football. Aust J Sci Med Sport 25: 100–102, 1993..
  6. Malone, S, Solan, B, Collins, K, and Doran, D. The positional match running performance in elite Gaelic football. J Strength Cond Res  30: 2292–2298, 2015.
  7. O’Donoghue PG, Donnelly O, Hughes L, and McManus S. Time-motion analysis of Gaelic