Ever wondered what a Strength and Conditioning coach does? The Performance Centre of Sport & Fitness is home to our very best sports practitioners – and we thought that the annual visit to the Font Romeu training camp, attended by athletes and experts alike, was the perfect chance to chat to Ray, our Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach.
Ray has been working in strength and conditioning at elite sport level for over 8 years. As well as having an extensive multi-sport background within a University setting, Ray has planned and delivered multiple overseas training camps, including warm weather swimming camps and an Ice Hockey training camp in Canada. However – he’s never been to an altitude training camp, so we caught up with him to find out what it was like for him.
This is my first time to an Altitude training camp, and the first time in the four years they’ve been going that the Athletics club have taken a strength and conditioning coach with them. After a speedy flight into Barcelona and a 2.5-hour drive, we arrive in Font Romeu. The views are great, and as it’s late afternoon there’s no time for training today! So instead, I catch up with the coach (Luke Gunn) and finalise the plans for my few days here.
On the first day I’m up and out early for morning monitoring, which for today is the women. While we are out here the athletes will be averaging 2 sessions a day, with an increase in weekly mileage. Being at altitude the body can take a bit of time to get used to being 1800m above sea level just at the hotel, so in the monitoring sessions we are looking at ankle range, body weight, hydration and checking that no one develops any signs of acute mountain sickness. Then it is out for an easy 30-40 min run to get the camp going – I’ve brought my trainers with me as well, so I’m off out with sports scholar Becky Straw for her first run back from injury. In the afternoon, there’s a session of foot drills and core with all the athletes out on the balcony in the sunshine, before they head out for their second easy run of the day.
Today, it’s the men who are in for monitoring. The first run of the day is another 30-45 minutes, but this time we are heading down to the lake – which is obviously a bit lower so should be a touch easier for the athletes (and me!). The aim of this is to stretch their legs and pick the pace up a bit. After that hard work on the way back we stop off at the well known bakery to grab some fresh bread and an almond croissant: we are in France after all!
Back at base at the hotel, it’s a good opportunity to catch up with our sports scholars. As this is a self-funded trip for the athletes, we get a nice mix of scholars, club members and runners, so it’s good to check in on how our scholars are doing. There’s a few niggles and issues to look at before lunch. Thursday afternoon is the only timetabled S&C session each week for the athletes, so we head up to the ‘Alta Fit’ gym and I camp out there for a few hours, where I can see most of the scholars and performance athletes in small groups. As it’s the first gym session – and at altitude – we try to keep the load relatively high, and increase the rest time between sets to give extra recovery time.
On my final day at the camp and after a positive monitoring session in which everyone is looking good, we head off to the hill! It is the athletes’ first proper session out here at altitude and my job is pretty simple… make as much noise as possible and shout encouragement to help them up that hill! Overall everyone has a great session, so we head back to the hotel to have a quick check in with all the athletes before I head off.
It has been a great first time to altitude and fantastic to spend so much time with the coaches and athletes!