The internationally famous All Blacks rugby team plays its first game in 34 (!) years in the United States, and it’s Saturday at Soldier Field.

If you were lucky enough to snag a ticket (the game’s sold out) as the team takes on the USA Eagles or will be watching it on TV (3 p.m. on WMAQ-Channel 5), there’s no way you won’t be marveling at the players’ strength, endurance.

Moments like this often make even the everyday athlete wonder, could I get stronger?

Yes, you can, says Nicholas Gill, who is in his seventh year as strength training coach for the All Blacks.



Nicholas Gill

But you gotta have a plan. You have to know what you are going to do, how often and what your time frame is, according to Gill. And you can’t just duplicate your best pal’s workout. Just as Gill customizes the workout for each of his team’s players, you need to figure out what works for you.

It’s important to look at that plan and review your progress along the way. If you’re not improving at the speed you want, really study what you’ve been doing. Did you miss one session and then cut another short? Even slight variations can keep you from hitting your goals.

Lifting weights is a surefire way to increase your strength, according to Gill. But don’t simply start a routine and do the same thing every time. Once you’ve perfected one weight level, it’s time to move it up a notch. Or, increase the number of repetitions. “You have to give the body something to object to,” says Gill.

Don’t forget cardio, either. But don’t go overboard. It’s important to keep a balance between cardio and strength training, he says.

Getting to the next level takes more than just physical training, Gill points out. He emphasizes to his players the importance of sleep, dealing with fatigue (they travel the world constantly) and handling stress.

Eating well is a must. “You can’t out-train a bad diet,” is one of the things he often reminds players. Improving nutrition can bring “impressive changes,” according to Gill.

And attitude is everything, according to Gill. You must believe you can succeed. “If you’re telling yourself you can’t do it, you won’t.”