Monday 11 December 2017

Travelling as a pro and the effects

By Rory Cassidy

Conor Niland.
Conor Niland.

'I had to take a seven hour taxi to Bukhara after arriving in Tashkent, the capital.'

Conor Niland is probably Ireland's most famous ever tennis player and has had seven years as a professional tennis player. His highest world ranking was 129 and he has played at Wimbledon and the US Open. That's the glamorous side. Niland on that taxi journey in Uzbekistan had to deal with a crazy taxi driver as they drove along dirt roads for mile upon mile. After enduring this he played in a tennis tournament where he was knocked out in the first round.

'I was racing there and the hotel where we were to stay had windows missing, was freezing and dirty.'

Martyn Irvine like Conor Niland is an incredible and inspirational sportsperson. He has competed at the Olympic Games and has won a gold medal at the UCI track cycling world championships in 2013 in Belarus. Although he has had some great experiences of travelling, he has also had bad experiences like in Xining in China where he had to stay in a hotel with windows missing from it. After this, Irvine had to travel for three hours to the next town and to the next hotel before competing in an event a couple of days later. Although Martyn admits that his morale was 100 per cent affected he says that he just got on with it.

'It is part of pro cycling at that level.'

But could these events have had an impact on Niland's and Irvine's performances?

German researchers have found that the motor function of athletes gets worse for every time zone they cross. They found that athletes travelling eastwards would not perform as well as other athletes travelling. Our body is better suited to adapting to a long day, which results from Westward travel, then a shorter day, which results from Eastward travel. Along with this jetlag also has a massive effect. When travelling you have to sit for a number of hours, depending on the destination, this can make an athlete's limbs tired and could affect them. Studies have also shown that athletic performance gets worse immediately after returning to altitude.

'I remember winning the Salzburg Challenger on a Sunday, getting a car to Munich, a flight to Copenhagen, a flight to Tokyo and a train to Toyota. I then won my first round on the Tuesday there. I was pretty tired for my second round...!'

In those four days Conor Niland nearly did eighteen hours of travelling and to be honest I don't think anybody could blame him for being tired.

We know now that this does affect athletic performance and it also explains why a lot teams seem to be over-fatigued. The question is will this issue be focused on by athletes in years to come. I hope so because this is very logical and all athletes should think about this prior to travelling.

Wexford People

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