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Coronavirus: How Man City players are staying fit for life after lockdown

3:00 AM EDT 4/8/20
Ilkay Gundogan Manchester City 2019-20
The reigning champions were hit with the sad news of the passing of Pep's mother but players are staying fit for a time when lockdown ends

With no certainty of when football is going to return in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it would be easy for some players to lose their motivation. 

Much of their routine revolves around football, whether it’s playing, training or recuperating; their lifestyle is constantly monitored to ensure they remain in peak condition.

The lockdown has thrown everything into chaos and Manchester City are doing everything they can to keep the players healthy and as mentally focused as possible.

The Etihad Campus has been shut down for the past three weeks due to government advice regarding the Covid-19 outbreak, which also saw City’s last three scheduled games against Arsenal, Real Madrid and Burnley postponed at short notice.

A return to football was originally slated for the end of April but the Premier League has followed the examples of Spain and Italy and postponed a return for an indefinite period.

Despite not knowing a return date, the players are working hard to keep their physical shape even if they are missing out on crucial ball sessions on the training pitches.

Some of the foreign-born players in the first-team squad have returned home where better weather and more open spaces make it easier to stay fit.

The English players and those with young families who live in the suburbs of Manchester or in nearby Cheshire, meanwhile, have been able take advantage of their large gardens or already have rooms converted into small gyms.

But the lockdown has been tougher on others - particularly on those that have city centre apartments where the ability to exercise is much harder.

Germany internationals Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan live in the same building and have had to adhere to the same rules on social distancing as everyone else in the United Kingdom - only permitted to go outside for a brief exercise session once a day.

Their apartment block’s gym has been shut down to tenants to help contain the virus. The club have got around that by sending out equipment to those that don’t have anything in their homes, including fitness bikes, treadmills and weights.

Individual training plans have been drawn up by Head of Human Performance Sam Erith to try to maintain players' cardiac levels or to focus on strengthening. Bespoke plans are particularly pertinent to Sane and defender Aymeric Laporte as they manage their returns from injuries.

Diet is just as important with Michelin-star trained personal chef Jonny Marsh delivering meals to some of the first team while nutritionist Silvia Tremoleda gives advice.

Head of Sports Medicine Max Sala is also in regular contract with the players to check on their physical and mental well-being on a daily basis.

But even with all the hard work the players are putting in to maintain their fitness, there are concerns about the potential physical impact of such a major change to their routine.

“I have no idea when we will be playing again," Kevin De Bruyne said in a Q&A on Instagram. “But if you haven't played for six weeks, normally you'd need three to four weeks to prepare again. If we restart immediately everyone will be injured after a few games.”

A return to the Etihad Campus will help improve any lost fitness with the complex being one of the most modern training facilities in the world.

At the end of last year, a new hyperbaric chamber was opened. It can simulate conditions such as high altitude or extreme temperatures which make the body work harder to produce more red blood cells and increase oxygen delivery to muscles, speeding up the process of achieving a higher fitness level.

Lockdown is also particularly unhelpful for the team spirit that Pep Guardiola sees as vital to building a successful group and the squad are staying in touch via WhatsApp and playing video games such as Fortnite and FIFA 20. Their bond was evident when those on social media sent their love and support after the sad death of Guardiola's mother.

Many of the players have made their contribution to help the fight against coronavirus such as Gundogan, who set up a shopping service and thank you gifts for a badly-hit part of his native Germany, and Gabriel Jesus, who donated food baskets to his childhood neighbourhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Guardiola, meanwhile, donated €1 million to help buy medical supplies in the fight against coronavirus in his home of Catalonia.

But, like all football fans, they will be happiest when they can get back to normal life and playing again. And they are doing everything to be ready for when that finally happens.