Football Training + Biking, Trekking and Kayaking in Ulagalla
During the December break, my family and I went on vacation to a region in Sri Lanka called Anuradhapura to a resort called Uga Ulagalla. This was not only a much needed break from the screen and the city but it also served as the perfect opportunity for me to take part in something other than my regular home workouts on gym equipment, as the hotel premises were surrounded by acres of land and nature and the only way to get to your villas aside from using a buggy was by biking a few kilometers from the reception. I made sure to make the most use of this as the biking trail was pretty magnificent; the roads were fully paved and every 5 meters or so you would be met with unique a different wild animal. They ranged from peacocks to horses, falcons to snakes and terrapins just to name a few. I’d say that in our 4 days spent there, my most exciting encounter while biking was seeing a large crested hawk eagle take down an even larger junglefowl for breakfast not 2 meters away from us!!!
This wasn’t the least of my physical activity while in Ullagala; two mornings in a row my family friends and I headed down at the break of dawn to a historic reservoir called Kalawewa for kayaking. We stayed paddling around the reservoir for around 5 hours while the guides gave us a run down of it’s history. It was a rather breathtaking sight as the waterfront faced a mountain range called Kinhirikanda and it was shrouded in mist when we got there early in the morning. Getting there had been a workout in itself since it required a long trek along a super muddy trail.
The history of the lake itself seemed pretty surreal to begin with, since the construction of it happened in 460 AD without the help of the machinery we have available in 2021.
Kayaking was a little bit tricky to say the least since the lake essentially overflowed with lotus leaves which the oars got frequently stuck in the roots of and my kayaking partner and I had to constantly duck out of the way of overhead branches and maneuver carefully in order to not startle any of the birds. Needless to say, I was the definition of exhausted at the end of 5 hours, but I felt that it was time well spent. The most exciting part of kayaking? It probably HAD to be the bend in the reservoir which had a small island with a single tree on it that was flooded due to high tide. Unfortunately we had a bit of a difficult time making our rounds as the water was too shallow for our kayaks so there was a lot of heaving and communication involved to work effectively as a pair. Overall though, I had a lot of fun, I got in my dosage of an arm workout and, I learned a lot about my country’s history and about the flora and fauna in the region.
If there’s one thing I am sure of, it is that if you know me well personally, you would easily understand my excitement at being back on the pitch. I had missed the game dearly during lockdown, only being restricted to watching games on the tv and playing the occasional “scrimmage” with my little brother and dogs as my only opponents (for contextual purposes, lets just say that neither of them know very much about the game). So, after months of planning which required me to find a pitch or garden big enough for us to play in, to then reach out to them and ask if we could use theirs and to find a time convenient for us both, I asked Doga to come train with me.
We each did our bit of research and looked up different drills we could try including a few from previous SAISA trainings that we could use to help us get back in shape. During our 2 hours on the field, we warmed up, ran a few laps, did a few sprints (we ended up trying to kick the ball up the hill and we had to race to get the ball back so the uphill ascent was an additional challenge).
It was a little more difficult during the passing drills than normally would be, since there’s usually a lot more people involved; however, I was glad we were able to make do with what we had and we ended up practicing our touches, chipping, long and short passes. We even took turns being in goal for a bit taking penalty shots which only confirmed that I was never cut out for the position of goalie 😛 In all honesty though, I felt I needed to work a lot more on precision as a lot of my shots, although they were powerful, they kept sailing way above the net!
I should give us some credit though since it had been over 6 months since we were on an actual pitch. Next we practiced some dribbling, we had to creatively come up with objects that could suffice as cones so we used everything we had available from shoes to bottles and rocks. I’d say that we had both maintained our dribbling abilities pretty well as we completed those skills pretty competently. For the last 30 minutes of our session, we decided to do something more relaxed and I taught Doga how to do the rainbow and how to juggle and we ended up trying to volley the football in our rendition of ‘keepy uppies’.
All in all, it was a really fun but productive session and I look foreword to more (maybe with more people if COVID eases up)!!
^ Doga and I at practice :))