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Hemming reveling in vet's rugby

28 July 2011

  • England Women ready for Nations CUp kick off
  • Hemming looks at life outside rugby
England's Sophie Hemming

Photo: RFU Archive

Before England Women head to Canada for the Nations Cup this weekend, England prop Sophie Hemming gives a unique insight into how she’s been preparing for the Nations Cup and balancing training with her day job.

“Having had a few weeks break from rugby during the off season, the new Women’s Elite Player Squad met for a fitness testing weekend at the beginning of June. Although the fitness testing proved a bit of a shock to the system, it was necessary to give each player a baseline.  I was all too aware that there was only a six week training block prior to our departure for the Nations Cup in Canada.

Since fitness testing in June, we have had two weekend training camps, where the Nations Cup squad have come together to work on our set-play and skills. Outside of these two camps, all the players have been juggling training with busy work schedules, to ensure that we travel to Canada in the best possible shape.

An England coach using Polar equipment during and England Women's match

Photo: Simon Harvey Photography

It is difficult for us to meet up frequently as a squad because players live all over the country and have to juggle training with busy work schedules. As a result, we undertake the majority of our fitness sessions individually. To ensure that we are training optimally, we monitor our average and maximum heart rates with a Polar heart rate monitor during all fitness sessions.  I use an RS400 Monitor to record this heart rate data, which is really easy to use and it also stores all of my training session data. On a weekly basis, we email our training logs to Dan Howells, our lead strength and conditioning coach. He is able to check that I am training at the right intensity to maximise my performance.

Hemming mixing work with training

My work as a Veterinary Surgeon means that in order to fit my training sessions in, I train most mornings before work. My strength training is done with the English Institute of Sport at Bath University, where the new EIS gym facilities are fantastic. I use local rugby pitches and a nearby gym for my fitness sessions, with the help of my heart rate monitor, which also links into the machines at my local gym.

As a mixed vet, I undertake work with both domestic pets and large animals. My working week can be very varied, which can be both challenging and stimulating! I spend most mornings visiting farms to treat sick animals or undertake routine veterinary work.  

Sophie Hemming operating on a cat

Photo: RFU Archive

My afternoons are either spent on farms or small animal consultations, seeing a diverse range of species at the practice. I spend one morning a week operating, which can vary from neutering animals, to investigating problems with radiographs or ultrasound scans, and operating on poorly animals. One case that springs to mind is a 75kg Newfoundland dog who was very ill with vomiting and diarrhea. From the radiographs that I had taken, I was suspicious that he had eaten something that he shouldn’t – however I wasn’t expecting to remove large lengths of rugby strapping tape that he had found rather tasty whilst watching a local rugby game! Despite having to remove a section of his intestines, he made a remarkable recovery.

Over the years, some coaches have struggled to understand how physical and exhausting my work can be.  On a couple of occasions I have worn my Polar heart rate monitor during some farm visits. I remember one visit where I needed to examine some calves that were not particularly co operative – I spent two hours trying to chase them round a large field, wearing wellington boots and waterproofs! I was wearing my heart rate monitor to feed some information back to my EIS trainer, and I think we were both surprised at the data! It made me realise that my job is a little different from others, and that I need to alter my nutrition as a result; which as a busy vet can be challenging!”

England kick off their Nations Cup campaign against the USA on August 2, kick off 11.30pm BST.  Match action is available at

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