How Olympic hopefuls prepare for colder weather

Staying healthy and injury free is the key when training in the elements over the winter months for UK's athletes. And while many top athletes will seek warmer climes for warm weather training – and some seek even colder temperatures – others head indoors, periodise their training to do longer but steadier miles over that time of year and take good care of themselves.

Rugby players, footballers, hockey players have to contend with the variable ground conditions which can throw up a multitude of injuries ranging from muscle pulls to twisted ankles.

While icy roads, wet leaves and dark nights can lead to a number of injury woes for cyclists, runners and triathletes.

Just last year, the British Triathlon Federation saw two of its then world champions Chrissie Wellington and Alistair Brownlee out of action due to injuries picked up in the winter months.

Norfolk's Ironman star Wellington, from Feltwell, near Downham Market, broke bones in her arm, wrist and hand after falling on the ice on her bike last January.


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Meanwhile, Brownlee, who this year regained his world championship title and is one of the favourites to win the men's triathlon in the Olympics, sustained a femoral stress fracture during the off-season which saw him unable to compete until June last year.

David Carolan, a Wymondham-based multi-disciplined sports scientist and strength and conditioning coach, said: 'For whatever sport you are doing, when the weather changes it affects the environment you train in and has an impact on your equipment, clothing and what you do.

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'The warm-up becomes even more important in cold weather conditions because your core body temperature drops a bit and it takes longer to warm up.

'Also, because people think they're not losing as much sweat in the winter, they don't have enough to drink and dehydrate more, which can lead to injuries.'

Mr Carolan, who has more than 14 years' experience as a sports scientist and used to work at Norwich City Football Club before moving to Colchester United, said athletes also need to be aware of their nutrition to combat winter colds and flu.

The former English Institute of Sport sport scientist, who helped prepare Great Britain's shooting team for the Olympic Games in 2008, said: 'Illness is prevalent in the winter months and it's important for athletes to protect their immune system. It's also important that if athletes are going to a venue to train then they should shower and get changed, warm and dry before leaving the venue rather driving or walking home in sweat-laden clothes, leaving themselves open to disease or a bug.'

Over the winter months, many sportsmen and women head to warmer climes. Norwich cyclist Emma Pooley, bronze medallist at last week's time trial world championships and silver medallist in the time trial in Beijing, annually heads off to Perth, Australia, in January. Olympic athletes have been known to head to South Africa and Malaysia, each time identifying a destination not only for temperature but also the facilities available.

Ahead of the London Games, athletes will go somewhere which will replicate the temperature in London at the end of July and beginning of August.

Meanwhile, other athletes head off to even colder climes in the winter months. Dyson Pendle, head coach at Norwich Canoe Club, whose son Tim Pendle is in the Great Britain squad, said: 'We do a lot of gym work, strength and conditioning training over the winter months, and we do a lot of cross training such as cycling, running and swimming.

'At the weekends, we do a long paddle, about 30km or 40km, low intensity, pure endurance work. We also do a 10-day cross country skiing training camp somewhere like the Czech Republic. It's the most aerobic thing we can do and it's very relevant because it's a lot of upper body work.'

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