Coaches Corner – Preparing to race in colder conditions

With Nationals now postponed until May, it is likely to be significantly colder than it would have been in February. In the UK, the first domestic regatta of the season based in Nottingham, would be in April. I have raced this regatta and got sun burnt, but also have raced it when it has snowed. The important point is to be prepared for the conditions in order to optimise your athletes chance of performing at their peak. 

Warm muscles are fast muscles. In basic medical terms, a cold environment causes blood vessels near the skin to constrict, to keep the blood circulating nearer your vital organs to remain warm. Hairs on your body stand up to try to trap warm air near the skin surface, this is why we get “goose bumps”. As your body temperature lowers further you begin to shiver to try and generate warmth through rapid fine muscle contractions. All of this is not helped by getting wet in either rain or from being on the water. In extreme circumstances, reaction speeds slow, speech slurs and the body begins to almost go into a hibernation type mode. Not good if you have a race in ten minutes!

The key is to be prepared for the conditions. Plenty of warm kit and dry clothes. Somewhere to shelter from the elements. Warm coats to put on over your gear until ready to head out on the water. Consider paddling mits if you suffer from cold hands. A lot of heat is lost from the exposed skin on your head. The top of my head has clearly evolved for warmer climates and I don’t have much hair left to keep the heat in. Wear a warm hat, again this can be taken off just before you race. 

Land based warm ups are also key to get warmth into the body and the muscles. Active warm ups on static bikes, jogging, jumping etc gets the body moving, muscles firing and brain going. Consider a hot water bottle and a means to heat water for it.

So, plan for the worst and hope for the best! It’s better to have brought too much gear than not enough. 

Tim Brabants – CRNZ Coach

Image: Vera Bucsu