John Kavanagh explains how he uses dance and yoga classes in Conor McGregor's training
Behind every successful athlete is an unwavering support network, keeping them focused and on track. If you've been inspired by the achievements and confidence of Ireland's Mixed Martial Arts star Conor McGregor, check out what head coach John Kavanagh has to say to CAROLINE FORAN about how to keep a professional at the top of his game.
The exercise programme: For this UFC champion, the usual training three times a week with rest days in between is a luxury he can't afford. "We train twice a day every day. Once at lunch time and once in the evening, and that's not including the weeks leading up to a fight where we enter 'caveman mode'. Training sessions are typically based around perfecting his skills in mixed martial arts, including pad work, kicking, jiu-jitsu, and lots more."
What might come as a surprise to those who follow McGregor in the media is that Kavanagh's approach has always been a softer one. "The training we do is light to medium, but a lot and often. We've never had the approach of training super-hard; you just get too tired and burn out. We prefer intelligent, light training, where your brain is always switched on, over mindless heavy training. Otherwise it's too hard to stick at it."
Still, it's hardly for the folks that Kavanagh describes as 'New Year's Resolution' people (ever start something in January, go hell for leather and give up before the week is out? Yep, us too). He believes slow and steady always wins the race (or fight). "It's a lifestyle approach rather than a short-term plan," he explains, adding that a quick-fix solution will never reap long-term benefits.
"The types of training used in MMA are all about technicality and functionality; there's a lot of what I call gross movement skills, with deadlifting, sled runs (normally the work of huskies in Alaska, but here part of Conor's routine) squats and more. Think big exercises that involve the whole body. We're training for competitions, not just to look good on the beach."
It's not always as serious as it sounds, Kavanagh says. "There are times when we mix things up; sessions will sometimes look like a dance class or yoga class, which give the guys a mental break from repeating the same techniques and bring in a more playful approach. Sometimes we do all sorts of crazy things," he says with a laugh.
The food programme: "For Conor to be at the level he's at, it's 50pc about his MMA ability in the gym and 50pc about his diet in the kitchen. Before a contest, and that's only three times per year, the calories get reduced significantly and we have to be super-strict, but that's only 6-8 weeks out of 52; I'm much more concerned about the other 46.
"Here's the simplest way of eating well: if it had a face or it grew in the ground, you can eat it. Broccoli doesn't come with a label, it's just broccoli. For the most part, we avoid anything with a label."
But that's not to say he won't allow Conor to indulge his sweeter side once in a while. "He's got a big sweet tooth, but giving into that would be pretty rare; his massive ego wouldn't allow him do away with the six-pack."
John's top 3 tips
* Find a physical activity you enjoy because you'll do it every day for fun, and get fit as a side-effect
* With food, if you really want a treat, then have it. Eat well most of the time but don't be so hard on yourself
* Watch your portion size, be smart about it, and get your arse in the kitchen and learn to cook. There's a misconception that healthy food is bland; this simply isn't true