British age group triathlete Helen Russell recently spent a week in the La Santa sports resort in Lanzarote and outlines below some of the benefits of training in warm weather.
Each year when the days get shorter and the temperatures start to plummet I try to get away to do at least one week of warm weather training. Normally in December I will have a week in La Santa sports resort in Lanzarote and sometimes in early spring manage to get a week of training in the south of Spain or Mallorca.
Obviously the main benefit of warm weather training is the sun. It is much easier to get up and train when the sun is shining. But not only is the sun a great motivator it can also have wider training benefits.
The warm weather means that muscles are more pliable and therefore the risk of strains and muscle tears is reduced. The cold weather can tighten muscles resulting in injury if athletes don’t do a proper warm up. Of course training in the warm does not mean that you can skip the warm up as it is still necessary but the length of it can be reduced.
The sun is a natural way of getting a daily dose of vitamin D. Some research has suggested that a lack of vitamin D can result in sports related muscle injuries. Other research has suggested that the vitamin actually improves reaction time, muscle strength, speed and endurance. Apparently in the 1950s and 80s German and Russian athletes used sunlamps to stimulate vitamin D production to increase performance and reduce injuries!
With many competitions taking place overseas in warm climates British athletes often train overseas to get used to exercising in the heat. It is better to have experienced conditions as close as possible to those on race day before the actual race and to have experimented with hydration and cooling strategies before racing.
As mentioned before many of the benefits are psychological. It is often said that a change is as good as a break and a warm weather training break can be a great motivator, help renew athletes focus and gives athletes the chance to train and recover without other daily distractions. This is especially good for amateur athletes who can escape work and train and recover like the professionals for a week or two.
Obviously there are some negatives. Heat stroke and sunburn can ruin a training holiday but that can easily be avoided by keeping hydrated and using sun cream. It is also tempting for amateurs to rush into doing too much training thus risking injury. Again that can be avoided by easing yourself into the training or following a well structured training plan that gradually increases volume.
Unfortunately the main negative, which isn’t so easily avoided, is the prohibitive cost of many overseas training camps or warm destinations. One way of reducing the cost is to follow your own training plan in a sports resort rather than booking onto an organised training camp which is more expensive. This is less social but may in fact be better as it means that you can train at a level that suits you rather than having to follow a group training programme that again could lead to injury or fatigue. La Santa offers an excellent apartment share option where single travellers can sign up to share an apartment and pay 50% of the cost of an apartment. This removes the problem of prohibitive single supplements.
In short warm weather training if done properly is definitely worth doing to improve performance and help to gain that extra edge come race season.
This December I was lucky enough to be in Lanzarote at the same time as the British Triathlon Federation squad and so was able to observe elites such as the Brownlees and Helen Jenkins in training. Other professionals that I spotted and was able to chat to included world champion cyclist Sarah Storey and the pro-cycling team Rabobank.
Whilst there I was able chat to British triathlete Jodie Stimpson and ask her about her experiences of warm weather training.
Jodie, what was a typical day like for you in La Santa?
Usually the team swam in the morning which started at 7.00am when the pool opened for about an hour and half and then we had breakfast before heading out on the bike for 2-3 hours and finally in the evening we did a run with gym work.
Did you do follow your own training programme or train with the British Triathlon Federation squad?
I mixed up the training with the group on the camp. It was nice to train with the group but when I needed to do a key session I would do it on my own and maybe people would join in with me.
Apart from the sun, what is the best thing about warm weather training?
It’s a lot easier to get the long rides in but it’s also good to train with the British Triathlon group and get a good period of training in before Christmas, when pool times are limited and icy roads make cycling and running less safe.
Will you be doing warm weather training anywhere else this winter?
Yes I am heading out to Australia to train with Team Dillon at the end of January.
What top tip would you give to people considering doing some warm weather training?
Go go go :-) It’s a great feeling to go away for 7-14 days on a training camp, especially for people who work full time. If possible get away with a training group to make it even more fun.
You can follow Helen’s progress and news on http://www.hrussell.co.uk or follow @helengoth on Twitter.