WORCESTERSHIRE’S players report back this week for pre-season training and to undergo the work that will stand them in good stead in the heat of battle out in the middle next summer.

The 2018 campaign might seem a long way off at present with Christmas on the horizon and cold, short days for the next two to three months.

But the demanding routines of strength and conditioning coach Ross Dewar and the winter programme put together by assistant coach Matt Mason are vital parts of the preparation work for life back in Specsavers County Championship Division One.

Mason said: “I am running the winter programme because my ECB (Pace Programme) won’t get busy until after Christmas so I can structure everything and get things in place.

“It will be a bit different again this year. We will try to shake things up a bit.

“It’s really important with the players that we give them variety and also let them take charge of a lot of their own training.

“They are all professionals now and obviously in the winter months it can be dark, gloomy and cold so we’ve got to keep them motivated.

“We will come up with lots of different ideas and things to improve the players further and keep them engaged with what they are doing.

“Does it take a bit of motivating on a bleak day at Malvern College? Players and coaches alike. You can get up at 6.30am to go to Malvern and it’s dark, raining and cold.

“But at the end of the day our group are very good at recognising what they do for a living and are very respectful of the fact they are getting to do something they love. They actually don’t find it that taxing and work hard.

“They might have early sessions at Malvern then have a couple of hours off and have a bit of lunch and then they are back in the gym here with Ross doing a lot of physical stuff.

“It is a four or five-day week where they are pretty busy and are tested.

“It is about the coaching staff and the players talking and making sure everyone is happy and enjoying what they do because you then get real good quality work done.”

So are the demands of the winter months worthwhile when occasions such as gaining promotion back to Division One can be celebrated?

Mason said: “Absolutely. We do some fun stuff then some really challenging stuff which the players don’t particularly enjoy.

“But they all know we are doing it for the right reason.

“Dewsy’s stuff can be really tough.

“It is quite nice for me to sit and watch them do it now because I had to do it myself as a player. I’m sure Dewsy finished me off!

“They do work really hard but what is nice is they all push and motivate each other and you can really see the camaraderie in the group when those tough sessions come out and the support for each other is huge.

“That is what helps get them through the summer months because they do it in the winter when it’s tough.”