If you go down to the woods today...

Back in the 1960s, the sight of West Ham United's stars running through Hainault Forest was a common one during pre-season training.

The likes of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters would be a regular sight as they worked to up their fitness levels ahead of another long and gruelling campaign.

The tradition continued into the 1990s, when Paolo Di Canio was among those spotted jogging and sprinting through the trees.

This week, manager Sam Allardyce reinstated the old tradition with a modern slant, taking his squad for a 'speed play' session that included walking, jogging, high-intensity running and hill sprints.

Fitness coach Eamon Swift explained that the trip to the forest also provided the players with a welcome change of scenery as they stepped up their preparations for the 2011/12 npower Championship season.

"The manager is very interested in the psychology of the players and very interested in changing environments, so the main focus of the session was to have a change of stimulus," Swift explained.

"We went to Hainault Forest, which is something we haven't done for a while and wouldn't normally do, and while we were there we did a change of speed session.

"The players did a walk, a jog, a three-quarter pace run and mixed that into a 25-minute period. We then finished with some hill repeats - periods of climbing with some walk recovery.

"The players did not run for the full 25 minutes - it was a 'speed play' session including periods of walking, jogging, 75 per cent running and tempo running. It was not just one pace the whole way through.

"It was a 45-minute session in total with a warm-up and stretch recovery to finish."


While the session proved to be both testing and fun for those involved, Swift said it would also provide important performance data for analysing the players' fitness levels.

"We used heart-rate monitors so there will be a conditioning response. The main thing is that we got the lads together in groups and they were geeing each other on and, in the bits when they didn't have to work so hard, they got together and were chatting while the staff followed behind on bikes and gave them extra motivation where necessary.

"It was a good morning. The lads were very happy about it afterwards, so I think the most beneficial part about this session was bringing them together and helping to enhance the team ethic."