Fit For Life

Russell Penn, Captain of Benenden-sponsored York City FC, has been playing professional football for half his life. He explains how having children has reshaped his fitness routine

I’ve been playing football since I was 15 years old, although I kicked my first ball when I was six. After captaining Cheltenham Town I transferred to York City FC in 2014 and now captain the team. I love the responsibility of leading by example.

Football is all about winning, so I’m highly motivated to keep fit. I look after myself. It’s in my DNA. Unfortunately I’ve missed several games recently following a small ankle operation. It’s the longest period I’ve been out. I’ve felt useless, falling out with everybody because I hate not being involved.

I shape my fitness regime around family life – we have a son and a daughter. I start the day early so that I can have a full breakfast – porridge usually – with them. I take lots of snacks to work, especially fruit, power bars and liquids, around 1.5-3l of water a day, topped up with high-energy drinks. I don’t drink that stuff at home, though.

Sometimes I’ll eat two breakfasts – before a two-hour football session breakfast is laid on by the club, so I’ll have that, too: toast, fruit, cereals, yoghurt. My diet is high-carb – pasta, potatoes, bread – rather than high-protein. I’m also allowed a few chocolate bars, although I’m not a big eater. I eat little and often.

We vary our training during the week – including two days’ high-intensity training, a lot of running with the ball at your feet and learning to control your breathing. Thursdays we rest, then on Fridays it’s light training before Saturday’s game. 

After training I have a massage. It depends how fatigued I am whether I go to the gym or for a swim. Swimming’s great for older players’ mobility. The younger lads don’t go in for it, but I’m 30 so I do. Football’s a young man’s game. Youngsters are always chasing your position. 

Having children keeps me fit. My son’s seven, football mad, into keep-fit. He wants to be me – only better. But there’s no way I’m giving this game up yet.

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