ESSENDON forward Michael Hurley is hopeful an increase in aerobic fitness over the pre-season will strengthen his body and make him less vulnerable to the hamstring injuries that plagued the Bombers' 2012 campaign.
Hurley was one of eight Bombers to fly out of Melbourne on Saturday to Colorado, where they will meet up with skipper Jobe Watson and gun recruit Brendon Goddard to begin three weeks of altitude training.
While the training - in and around Boulder - is primarily aimed at boosting the running power of the midfield group, Hurley said being able to run harder and longer was an area he and coach James Hird had nominated as a way he could have a greater impact on games.
As one of the many Bombers who fell victim to soft-tissue injuries this year - he twice spent three-game spells on the sidelines, and was also out during the pre-season - Hurley also hoped any boost to his fitness would give him a better chance of seeing out an entire campaign.
''It's different styles of running,'' he said.
''Hirdy has touched on the aerobic side of things, and if we can do some longer form of running and harden the body, that might help.
''We have full faith in the [fitness] guys, we're pretty lucky to be going over to America for three weeks.
''I think it can't do anything but help.''
Fitness aside, Hurley, 22, said time spent soaking up the knowledge and experience of Watson, Goddard and Brent Stanton would help, given his position in the club's leadership group.
The way Essendon finished the season - seven straight defeats cost it a place in the finals after a year that began so brightly - would also drive the players over the next four months.
''It was a very disappointing way to finish the year, so I think it could be a pretty full-on pre-season as the boys have a fair bit to prove,'' Hurley said. Focusing solely on football makes for a pleasant change from this time a year ago, when Hurley was linked to Greater Western Sydney as he was poised to come out of contract at the end of 2012.
The Bombers banned him from discussing his negotiations, although he soon signed a five-year deal.
Hurley said on Saturday he had not given the negotiations much thought since signing with the Bombers.
''I suppose that's pretty much a luxury. It is pretty stressful being out of contract and with the media talking,'' he said. ''I'm fortunate I'm in a position where I don't have to talk about it for a little time now.
''I was lucky the club and I were able to get it done pretty fast.''
The other Bombers headed for Colorado are David Zaharakis, Ben Howlett, Michael Hibberd, Dyson Heppell, David Myers and Jake Melksham, along with midfield coach Simon Goodwin and fitness coach Justin Crow.