Although it was never explicitly stated in our wedding vows, when I married Ryan, I agreed to accept him for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health and in season and in pre-season. It is quite possibly the latter that presents the most significant matrimonial challenge.

Pre-season is perhaps the most physically demanding period of the year. Although a game of course requires unparalleled physical commitment and mental preparation, it is over in 80 minutes. Pre-season runs all day, nearly every day, for three and a half months. And it turns my usually jovial husband into a dozing, carbohydrate-craving, Gatorade-swilling, occasionally-incoherent-with-fatigue mass of (ever-expanding) muscles.

Don’t mistake me: I’m not suggesting that he has a split personality – one for pre-season and one for the remainder of the year. I’m suggesting that pre-season leaves him with no energy left to have one at all.

Not to be confused with off-season, preseason is that period between November and March that is dedicated to (a) preparing for the season ahead, and (b) for undoing any damage done in the aforementioned off-season. From what I understand, it basically comprises many weights sessions, many fitness sessions, and if the strength and conditioning staff are feeling generous, they’ll substitute the usual two laps of the Tan with several runs up a steep hill in forty degree heat, just to break the monotony. How thoughtful.

To give the uninitiated some sense of perspective, I cite the following: when queried on the longevity of his career Ryan will generally remark that it’s not how many seasons you believe you have left in you, it’s how many pre-seasons.

The first couple of weeks are the hardest. This is the period where the body adjusts from a reasonable, human level of intermittent physical activity to an onslaught of epic exertion on a daily basis. It is during these weeks that the sound-scape of our home is punctuated by Ryan groaning, grunting and sighing. Bend over to put training clothes in the washing machine, groan. Sit down on the couch, grunt. Lift up the remote, groan. Pass the salt and pepper, grunt. Is it really time to blink again? Sigh.

Still, for all the heartache (and back ache, and leg ache, and arm ache), there are no complaints. I know that for Ryan, and I can only guess the other boys, the completion of a pre-season is the source of an immeasurable amount of pride. It holds them in good stead for the season ahead and at the end of the day, is it inevitable.

For me, I do what I can to help – stock up the pantry with carbs, keep evening conversation to topics requiring only minimum mental engagement, and along with all the other girls, look forward to that glorious day in late-Feb when our partners morph back into the fun-loving, easy-going, stay-up-later than 8pm, men we know and love.

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