PROWLER: it sounds like a new dating app, but is far, far nastier, and, it turns out, one of the many reasons why the England Sevens squad make the majority of professional athletes look like Mr Muscle.
This piece of gym equipment – essentially a trolley stacked with weights – is just one element in a brutal circuit that the team’s fitness coach Dan Howells delights in regularly inflicting on the players.
For one day only, he also unleashed it on a handful of “lucky” journalists, who gamely panted and spluttered our way through a day of sevens training at Twickenham ahead of this weekend’s season-deciding Marriott London Sevens.
Howells likes to boast that his men are fitter than their 15-a-side counterparts, as sevens rugby demands repeated short, sharp bursts of ultra-high intensity exercise.
Fewer than half as many players covering the same size pitch means that their heart rates are typically pushed to 85 per cent capacity for 85 per cent of the frantic 14-minute matches.
In order to cope with those unique demands, England players undergo an exhausting combination of circuit training, watt bike sessions and on-field drills.
Aside from the prowler, our circuit incorporated squat jumps, pull-ups, battle ropes, a medicine ball and a cross-country skiing machine that not only renders victims breathless but also looking absurd, like they are vigorously milking a very tall cow. Perhaps I was doing it wrong.
What saved me from total collapse was England star Dan Norton’s canny advice to pace myself rather than go all-out for the full 30 seconds on each piece of equipment, before rotating to the next drill.
Even with Norton’s tips on how to wing it, that routine left us very little in the tank for the watt bike ordeal – 3km as fast as you can without dropping pace – and the rugby drills that followed, but in no doubt that, as well as having home advantage, England will surely also have one of the fittest squads in the final event of the HSBC Seven World Series.