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Helen is a Great Britain age group triathlete. She is a former age group World and European Duathlon champion and European Triathlon champion. This year Helen was part of the One Day Ahead team which raised £700,000 for Cure Leukaemia by riding the entire route of this year’s Tour de France one day ahead of the pros. She will be writing a series of blogs for Sportscover Direct where she will share her training tips. You can follow her on Twitter via @helengoth.
In my last blog I shared my top four overseas training locations but why do so many people choose to leave the UK to train abroad? Well of course the obvious answer is the warm weather but there are a lot more benefits to training abroad than just decent temperatures.
So yes, the main benefit of training overseas is the sun. Getting up in the morning for training is much easier when you don’t end up getting soaked with rain before you’ve even reached the swimming pool and even riding up hills is a joy when you have the sun on your back. However the sun isn’t just a great motivator it also has wider training benefits.
Cold weather can tighten muscles increasing the risk of injury, especially if you haven’t done a decent warm up. In the warm weather muscles are more pliable and the risk of pulling or straining something is reduced.
During the winter we often see media reports about people suffering from a lack of vitamin D, especially amongst those that do not get enough sunlight, which is a natural source. Research has suggested not only that a lack of vitamin D can lead to sporting injuries but that the vitamin can actually improve muscle strength, speed, stamina and reaction time.
It is often said that a change is as good as a break and many of the benefits of warm weather training are psychological. I have already mentioned how it is easier to be motivated when the sun is shining but there are other benefits. Training away from the normal routine and away from work and other responsibilities can give athletes the space to refocus on their goals and objectives. Often athletes suffer from a mid-winter lull but exploring new training rides and meeting new people can give an athlete a much needed boost.
There are however a few negatives to training overseas. The first one is to make the mistake of training too hard, too quickly and burning yourself out early on. This is especially true when going on a group training camp where people can feel pressurised to train too much or too fast. It is worth questioning whether it is best for you to follow a group training programme or just develop your own and just pay for accommodation and food, which is often a lot more affordable. I am lucky to be experienced enough to write my own training programme and so follow that. I might dip into some group classes but they would usually only be stretching or yoga to help my body recover.
Another negative is the high risk of sunburn or dehydration but this can easily be avoided by using sun cream and drinking enough fluids. It might also be an idea to drink electrolyte drinks or take salt sticks which can replenish lost sodium.
A mistake that some athletes make is not having enough recovery following a block of overseas training. The training volume is inevitably much higher during a training holiday and the body will need some to recover. I usually rest for about 3 days after returning home and then ease myself into full training again. The body will probably be fatigued for quite a while afterwards so don’t be put off by this. The benefits will soon start to come through. Keep this in mind when planning races as you don’t want your A race to be too soon after your return.
The benefits of warm weather training, if done properly, far outweigh the negatives and will help increase fitness which will hopefully translate into improved performance come the race season. Right- where is my passport?