Alex Skelton

Wattbikes at Manchester United

Posted by Alex Skelton on Feb 26, 2011

I had been looking forward to visiting the Manchester United's Training Centre to find out how they use the Wattbikes, and to speak to their Head Physiotherapist Rob Swire, but I was not really prepared for the experience. In the past I have visited some of the top training facilities in the UK ranging from Bisham Abbey to Loughborough to Chelsea, but this was much more impressive. The experience started with a mile long drive down a single track lane, only accessible once you have been buzzed through the first barrier. Then there was a second barrier with a small team of security guards and a rather larger group of avid fans, probably about 30, hoping to get to see their favourite footballers in the flesh and maybe even get a signature or two. There was a moment of excitement until they realised I was clearly not what they were waiting for!

I was a little bit early so took the chance to leaf through the Bentley brochures and copies of Waterfront that were waiting on the coffee tables - I had never seen a Bentley Brochure before - apparently I am not their desired demographic!

Rob was in the middle of a pretty busy day, having arrived back from their game in Marseilles at 4am. We walked through one of the gyms which, like the Powerbase Gym at Loughborough takes up a whole basketball court sized hall, then through into a gym that is more set up for rehabilitation. Amongst other equipment they had a treadmill that held the athletes up (removed their body weight) whilst walking to aid recovery, and next door in the pool room they also had an underwater treadmill to do the same thing.

We spent about an hour talking about their use of the Wattbikes. Rob has been at Manchester United for 20 years so I was keen to learn as much as I could about how he used the Wattbike and who uses it. They primarily use the bike for athletes who are on the road back to running training to ensure that they are have the fitness required when they come back to running training. Unsurprisingly they try and replicate the energy systems used in football on the bike so they do lots of interval work of varying durations depending on the athlete and the stage of recovery they are at. It was great to see how specific the training is for each individual to ensure that they are getting the best possible chance at returning to full fitness in the shortest possible time. I took a quick look on the monitors and there was some impressive power output, especially when the fact that the guys using the bikes were injured!