‘Variation is key.’Fitness tips by new Belgian FIFA-referee Caroline Lanssens

Rule number one when you want to be a good referee: be in excellent shape. It’s a lot of hard work, of course. How does our new Belgian female FIFA-referee Caroline Lanssens, who referees in the first women’s division, stay in shape? And does she have some useful tips to share?

Foto: Sportpix/David Catry

YungRef: What does your training routine look like? How do you combine field trainings with running sessions and the occasional day of rest?

Caroline: Variation is key. Most often, games occur during weekends, so it’s important to train enough during the week. But you don’t want to do the same thing over and over again – that’s too boring. And it’s also important to have different training objectives: low and high intensity, CORE, strength, they’re all important. If you overload certain muscle groups, you risk injuries. That being said, in a regular week I do two high-intensity sessions, a few flexibility, core and stability sessions, one speed session the day before my game and one after-game recovery session.

YungRef: Which type of exercises do you recommend on a pre-match day?

Caroline: Personally, I always do some agility exercises: fifteen to twenty sprints, alternated with walking. They’re perfect for focusing on my maximum speed and changes of direction. A game-preparation training should take less time than a normal training session. The day before a game, heavy exercises are definitely not recommended, as you have to be in shape for the next day.

YungRef: How often should you test your physical condition? Is it okay to do this more than once? 

Caroline: The female referees of the Super League do one fitness test every season, but I sometimes add tests to my own training sessions. It’s hard to recommend a specific number of tests to someone else, as it all depends on your age and your level of refereeing. Yet, a lot can be said for taking those tests more than once in a season. You immediately know how well your physical condition is, and what still needs to be improved. 

YungRef: Last one: what’s your biggest tip for referees who just started?

Caroline: Actually, the same as I said before: variation. Try different types of training sessions during the week. Even when it’s another sport: for example, do a swimming or a squash session. For the refs who are still playing football themselves, football training is of course also great. Later you can start with different running sessions, like low intensity or interval and agility sessions on the field. And besides that: surround yourself with nice colleagues, get involved in a great referee association, and have fun with your games!

Thanks for sharing, Caroline, they’re all very useful. And good luck with your career, too!

Check the interview I did with Caroline Lanssens here.