Interview | Andreas Kornmayer on Liverpool's lockdown fitness programme
Liverpool’s players are following individual programmes and working in small groups remotely in order to maintain their fitness during the coronavirus pandemic.
The squad video call sessions that have provided an insight into how the Reds are training from home are supplementing the more specific and specialised plans created and overseen by the team led by Andreas Kornmayer, the club’s head of fitness and conditioning.
Kornmayer believes the family-like atmosphere fostered by Jürgen Klopp is helping all Melwood staff overcome the challenges posed by the UK’s ongoing lockdown and, during an interview with Liverpoolfc.com, he detailed the work happening within his department currently…
Andreas, firstly, how are you and your team managing the players’ fitness at the moment?
Obviously we need to find now new ways of interacting with the players. Of course we are using WhatsApp, that’s the most common thing we are using, to keep in contact with our players. We have created bigger groups and little groups so everyone is involved and then we get all the information from the players. We have group sessions and individual plans which, for example, can be about running, or pre-training or strength. We have our video calls, which you have seen, where we have sessions and then we have little calls in between, group calls like I have with Virgil, Joe and Robbo for example. Everybody from my team has a certain amount of players which they are responsible for and then our team have several meetings during the week where we update each other, and we are in contact with emails, texts, video calls and normal phone calls every day anyway about everything that is happening and what we can adjust and our planning. The whole situation in this country at the moment is changing so much so we need to adapt – adapt to the latest science results for example – our planning. It’s quite a big demand, I would say, [because] for me, it’s easier to talk to somebody in person rather than on the phone like we are doing now.
Has this unique set of circumstances meant you have needed to be creative with your methods?
I think for everybody it is new and it is a challenge, that’s for sure. The only interactive work we can do is by video or by a FaceTime call or something, that’s one thing, and the next thing that is unique too is that we don’t have an end date to work towards, so we are not preparing to start again on a specific date. We don’t know yet when that will be so we are planning more or less from day to day, from week to week, from two weeks to two weeks, from four weeks to four weeks, so we have both the smaller picture and the bigger picture in our heads. That’s kind of difficult, to be honest. I think what changed a little bit in our mindset, especially in our department, through the last few years is that we are not so much science and data based, we are more ‘hands-on’ based. So that means if we have exercises to do we need to do them with the players, we need to show them and to guide them, and I think that’s the biggest challenge that we have right now: that we can’t really physically interact with the players.
Dejan Lovren and fitness coach Tom King at Melwood in December 2019
The squad’s video call sessions appear to be a lot of fun! Is it important that you can still see each other and work ‘together’ at the moment?
Yes, it is important. The biggest thing is seeing each other and coming together and socialising in this kind of way but again, for us it is difficult because our job is to be there and to have physical contact with the players. So yes, it’s important to see each other and we have such a brilliant, great group. The character of the players that our manager formed: how they are coming together, how they are interacting with each other, how they are pushing each other and helping each other, I think that is quite unique and this comes back to how our manager is behaving and is dealing with us all.
What have you made of the new haircuts on show?!
Well, I’m not sure I would say I am impressed but they are… different!
Have the challenges that have arisen from this situation even reinforced to you how strong and positive the mentality and attitude within the squad is?
Yeah. It’s like we are not only a group of individuals coming together but we are really a team, we really understand each other and we are really together. It’s almost like a family and in this situation right now, you maybe see it even better how we stick together, how we are together, how we help each other, how we support each other in a few ways. For sure, there are many interactions between the players like there always has been, but now you can see it on those calls when we are laughing together and we still have those birthday songs together. Again, it’s what we created over years so for anybody who is coming in it makes it easier to adapt and get involved in the group. For sure during the season there are a few situations which are challenging, but I think right now is our biggest challenge and not only for us, for the whole world of course. But if you can see how we interact with each other and how everything is sorted and organised – and not only from the players but from all the departments such as Mona [Nemmer] and nutrition, Ray [Haughan] and player liaison, Dr Jim [Moxon] and medical, fitness and the coaches – it’s amazing.
Finally, we’ve seen how you are exercising in your Home Workouts videos – just how important is it for everybody to be active at the moment? And do you have any tips for people who are wondering how they can keep fit during the lockdown?
My friends have been calling me and telling me my voice is really calm on the videos, which is funny! Again, this situation is unique but from a professional point of view, for sure you need to stay active – but you only need to do the right things and not go crazy! We should do something every day, to stay active in that way, even if it is only a walk outside in the park or somewhere. For me that is incredibly important, and from the psychological side too, to have a bit of a different environment for a while and to use a little bit our bodies. I think it is not so important to think about what exercise will make you look like, to have pictures in your head of these models that you think you should look like otherwise you are not successful. What it’s about is our health – we need to stay active because of our health, not because we want to look like someone who looks really fit or whatever. We need to do things for our health and to feel good in our bodies, and because of this then we can be stronger and be proud of ourselves. I think this is what we lost during the last years and hopefully it is coming back, the idea that our health is more important than other things like appearance.