Steven Taylor has revealed that Newcastle United are enduring a tough pre-season as they prepare for the new Premier League campaign.
The Tyneside club finished 10th in the English top flight last season, despite only securing five league wins in 2014.
And, after losing seven of their last eight games to end the campaign on a low note, Taylor claimed the whips have been cracking at St James' Park - with manager Alan Pardew employing Dave Billows as the club's head of fitness.
"Pre-season has been really, really tough. Dave has come in from Everton and he has been absolutely thrashing the life out of us," Taylor said in quotes reported by The Northern Echo.
"It is a sickly feeling sometimes but the hard work is going to pay off for us. It has been really good and we have been enjoying the pain.
"Dave got us down to hard graft from the very first day. It's been tough, but great. It's what you need as a team and everyone has brought into it straight away.
"Fair play, there have been no complaints as everyone knows how vitally important fitness is in the Premier League these days.
"The lads have been working very hard, but it has been needed."
Centre-back Taylor missed more than two months of action early in the season due to a hamstring injury, and was restricted to just nine league starts.
The 28-year-old has been a magnet to the medical room in recent years and he admitted that he is still yet to reach full fitness since a seven-month lay-off with Achilles tendonitis in 2011-12.
"I've been getting my head down a few times on Tynemouth beach, doing some running," he added. "It is great there as I can put the headphones on and run up and down the soft sand. It works.
"I did it for two or three weeks before the start of pre-season training, taking advantage of the soft sand and the hundreds of steps to get you down on the beach.
"It's difficult but it is something I've really want to do after coming back from my Achilles injury and it seemed to do the trick.
"I want to get back to where I was fitness-wise and strength-wise that I was before my Achilles tendon injury. I have got the feeling that I am getting back to those sorts of levels.
"I want to hit the ground running and feel great every time I go out on the football pitch and so a little bit of extra training won't do me any harm at all. My legs have never felt better. Condition-wise I have never felt as good in pre-season."
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