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January Camp Journals: Heath Pearce

During the January camp in Phoenix, several members of the U.S. Men’s National Team will write journal entries for ussoccer.com. Defender Heath Pearce writes the second installment and gives a detailed look at a day in the life in Phoenix.

© U.S. Soccer

IN THE IMAGE: In the second installment of the January Camp Journals, Heath Pearce breaks down the daily schedule to explain the purpose of each session.

During the January camp in Phoenix, several members of the U.S. Men’s National Team will write journal entries for ussoccer.com. The journals will provide a first-hand, behind-the-scenes account of what’s going on in the January camp.

A member of the 30-man preliminary squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Chivas USA defender Heath Pearce writes the second installment and gives a detailed look at a day in the life in Phoenix …

It’s that time of year again. No, it’s not the holidays… it’s not NYE… it’s the infamous JANUARY CAMP. We are a little more than a week into camp, and the legs are heavy but the morale is high. Great coaches and a hard working staff make the environment the perfect blend to be successful.  We have a good group of guys in camp this year with a wide range of “how we got here” stories, so let me share a bit of insight into what we’ve been up to.

Doing triple days from day one is no one’s favorite thing in the world, but that is what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Let it be known that the guys have been very responsive and positive towards the demands being placed on us. We have done the fitness tests, the mental and physical evaluations, and the mobility screens, and we are slowly starting to work our way to more sessions on the field with the ball. We’ve been kept busy from about 8 a.m. each morning until about 8 p.m. each night, not including treatment and massage late in the evening. As you know, U.S. Soccer has posted our “typical” daily schedule, but I will try to break down the purpose of our sessions from a player’s point of view with the VAST amounts of knowledge I have gained during this short camp (I’ve been taking good notes…).

Our day typically begins at 8:30 a.m. with a morning RUN. The reason I capitalize the word RUN is because it was first deemed a morning JOG, but after the first day the pace has steadily increased, along with the distance. The reason for this run before breakfast is to torture us mentally until we are about to break. OK, OK, that’s not quite the truth. The real purpose of the pre-meal run is to teach the body to recruit additional energy when it is depleted of the usual energy stores. The body is depleted because it has been using the stores while you sleep. See, I told you I was taking good notes!

After the run, we go directly to our meal room where we have our recovery/protein shakes waiting for us, and for those of you lactose intolerant people out there, do not be alarmed because the hotel staff also caters to the needs of the less fortunate like myself with a NON-dairy shake option.

After our morning run, shakes and breakfast, we have about an hour or so until we leave for our “second” workout of the day, which is usually at Athlete’s Performance. These sessions start out with a pre-workout shooter and nutritional supplement. We start the physical work with a quick regeneration session on the yoga mats. The purpose of this is to make you madder than when you first arrived. Again, I joke! The exercises can be a bit painful at times, but they definitely help you recover quicker.

So, on to the physical demands of the morning. We begin our warm-up on the turf doing a series of dynamic stretches and movements that help get the muscles warm and firing. All things we do in this series are completely relatable to the functions and movements that take place throughout a soccer match, like linear speed, lateral cuts and movements and backward shuffles. Much of the focus of our warm-up is to not only get the legs warm, but also to increase range of motion and lower the risk of injury.

Next we move into the gym for our actual “lift” for the morning. We usually do about 11 different movements and/or lifts varying in weight and function and around three sets of eight reps. Our lifts vary from upper body to lower body, and also include core work that is incorporated into each series of lifts. Brek Shea and I usually turn Beast Mode on at this point and compete for man of the match in our lifting sessions -we call it man of the match, but we are the only ones allowed to participate. Because he and I are competitive, we usually see who lifts harder, more weight and with better form. At the end of the day, we each give our vote as to who is the man of the match. For example, we have lifted a total of eight times, and I have been man of the match eight times. Brek has been man of the match zero times. You get how the math works.

After our workouts we drink another recovery/protein shake and then jump in the ice bath. The shakes help repair the muscles and begin the recovery process. The ice baths help to flush the body and speed up recovery times. Sure it’s cold, but they are essential during a long training day. We usually shower and eat lunch at AP as well. AP provides us with catered meal options to help each athlete meet his or her caloric and health needs for the day. I usually eat a Gluten free brown rice tortilla wrap with chicken, lettuce, tomato, pepperoncini and avocado. It’s a custom wrap designed by me after hours of brainstorming to create the perfect blend of ingredients, and guess what? It’s amazing. I call it “Hollywood Heath’s Chicken Wrap.”

Right now you are probably wondering if the movie rights are still available for this story. The answer is YES, yes they are.

Some days we have guest speakers that offer advice on topics like professionalism or nutrition, and then we head back to the hotel and try to get in a short power nap before heading to the afternoon session on the field. Our field sessions usually run about an hour long and are short and sweet but definitely intense. Our strength coach takes us for about a 20-minute warm up that includes many of the same dynamic movements we did in the morning. Next we usually dive into some sort of passing or technical work. Feeling sharp, we finish the day off with a small-sided game like 5 v 5 or 8 v 8 on a small field. Most nights we finish the training with a jog and stretch, and head back to AP for more shakes and ice baths.

We arrive back at the hotel around 7 p.m. and have dinner at 7:30. Through the consultation of our nutritionist, we have each been given a comprehensive meal builder that helps each of the guys know what and how much of each food their bodies need to recover and perform at the highest level. After dinner each night, the training room opens for massage and treatments. At this point you must be thinking… Wait, aren’t they there to play soccer? The answer is yes, but the work we do in the gym and what we put into our body is just as important as the work we actually do on the field. Think BIG picture. We are slowly preparing for our game against Venezuela on Jan. 21 in Glendale, Ariz., and part of that is making sure we are healthy and fit. With each passing day we get a step closer to that point, and we are confident that we will be fit and ready for the vinotintos.

I hope this journal has given you a better understanding of what it is we are doing here, and a more in-depth look behind the scenes. If any of you see Brek Shea and in that moment, he is trying to read this, don’t pick on him – just help him with some of the bigger words.


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