browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Science and the Winter Olympics

Posted by on February 23, 2014

Whether they’re aiming for gold, or just proud to have qualified (Malta, Timor-Leste, Tonga and Zimbabwe are all making their debut this year), the Sochi Winter Olympics represent the pinnacle of many athletes’ careers. Chloe Warren considers “all things biological” regarding athletic training and preparation.

As well as practising for their specific event and improving cardiovascular fitness, athletes and their trainers need to consider several other factors when preparing for events such as the Winter Olympics, and many of these are often overlooked.

Olympians have to be mentally prepared for a competitive event. Sportspeople will often employ sports psychology coaching (which can be an interesting career path) to help them with their mental preparation.

It’s common for sportspeople to experience a feeling of anxiety, which can have a negative effect on their performance. Gold medal snowboarder Jamie Anderson has spoken of her anxiety in the days leading up to major competitions, and partially attributes her success to her meditation practise.

Competitors obviously dedicate plenty of their time training, but they also have to ensure they have time for rest too. A study on over 100 athletes’ sleep patterns revealed that poor quality sleep was significantly correlated with fatigue and tension.

In the case of some Winter Olympic athletes especially, avoiding fatigue is important, as it can make individuals more susceptible to hypothermia.  Hypothermia is defined as the dropping of core body temperature below 35°C (normal body temperature is 37°C), and is a particular risk factor during long Nordic skiing events. If athletes have to stop suddenly on the course (i.e. due to injury) and are unable to reach shelter quickly, their “exercise thermogenesis” (heat generated due to their hard working muscles) drops rapidly, making the body more susceptible to a dangerous drop in core temperature.

Although the cold conditions typically experienced during the Winter Olympics do pose some dangers to the competitors, sensible risk management is usually enough to keep everyone safe. Humans are great at manipulating the environment to suit them better, and in this instance wearing adequate clothing is usually sufficient to stop the major health risks (hypothermia and frost bite) from occurring. The amount of insulation each individual needs depends on the intensity of exercise they are doing, as this affects their metabolic heat production. Ambient temperature and wind speed also need to be considered, as these can increase the rate of heat loss from the body.

One Response to Science and the Winter Olympics

  1. rechargeable hookah pens for cheap

    Halo Premium All USA created e-liquid is right here.
    Electric cigarettes or electric cigarettes, are the newest products in the quit-smoking industry.
    As our consumer society continues to churn out endless
    upgrades and improvements of electronic equipment we are constantly told that
    we need to upgrade.