From a freezing warehouse to 23 degrees and cloudless
As you know, I’ve been in sunny Doha, Qatar recently for the Asian Cup. It should come as no surprise that the Middle East is a favoured destination for a growing number of European teams and individual athletes to train in the winter. When I was at Blackburn Rovers, we went to Dubai, and Bayern Munich have just left Doha after a winter training camp here. Many other teams have done exactly the same. This is because the facilities are superb and the weather is magnificent. Bear in mind that it’s mid-winter, and we’ve had days that were 23 degrees and cloudless. Perfect for training and getting some much needed serotonin and vitamin D from the sun.
One of the most noticeable things about training in warm weather is the reduced time it takes to warm up. It can take 30 minutes to get the core temperature up when you’re training in the middle of an English winter. In fact, I remember doing some work with the British taekwondo team in an old warehouse where the temperature never got above freezing!
"It makes sense, therefore, that the warm-up should reflect the functional demands of the sport"
So this brings us onto the first task of a warm-up: to prepare the body for training. This involves elevating core body and intramuscular temperature, to stimulate blood flow, prepare the cardiovascular system for the work it will be expected to complete during training, and to prepare the neuro-musculoskeletal system for the movements they will be subjected to during training. It makes sense, therefore, that the warm-up should reflect the functional demands of the sport. This means that if you play gaelic football, the warm-up should feature running, jumping, soloing, kicking, dodging, weaving, twisting and bending, and progressively increasing intensities. Simply going for a jog around the pitch and taking pot shots at goal is inadequate.
This is common sense I think, but the physical preparation is not the only function of the warm-up. Many people view it as “that thing you do before you train to get a sweat up”, already belittling its importance in terms of mental preparation. The warm-up should also be a mental ‘switch on’; a time where focus is narrowed to the aims of the training session. It cannot be a passive time waster otherwise mental lethargy can spill over into the training session and its effectiveness is markedly reduced. This is why the warm-up should be varied and involve some decision making drills. If it is the same old drills, it’s very easy to switch off and for it to become a mindless task.
So next time, when you’re planning the warm-up drills, think about making them progressively more taxing, both physically and mentally, and see if the athletes perform better during the training session.
Injury and Performance Consultant at Galatasaray FC. Holds a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy and a Masters in Strength and Conditioning. He also lectures on the MSc in Sports Physio course at the University of Bath.