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Athletes must prepare for the worst
Jock Campbell
17:30 AEST Sat Jan 12 2013

Jock Campbell
Jock Campbell is a leading expert in athlete high performance, strength and conditioning. Jock will be providing exclusive insights throughout the 2012/13 Summer of Cricket.
Jock Campbell

When it comes to extreme temperatures, you shouldn’t always hope for the best. Prepare for the worst and you won't be disappointed.

We have already seen some horrendous conditions this summer. While the mercury has risen above 40 degrees across the country, I genuinely felt for some of the world’s best tennis players when the on-court temperature hit 49 degrees at the Sydney International.

It reminded me of temperatures I struck with the Australia cricket team. Indeed, it wasn’t unusual in places like Colombo, Chennai, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, while on one tour to Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, the temperature hovered above 50 degrees for an entire day of a Test match against Pakistan. That game ended in two days.

How can players perform in such heat and can we train for this?

In this particular Sharjah Test match, the Aussies coped far better than their Pakistan rivals, who live in such conditions. Matthew Hayden was the king, scoring the only century of the game. The other player to cope extremely well was Glenn McGrath who as mentally tough as they come. While they were the least stressed of the Aussies, Andy Bickel, Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee also performed admirably, pushing through the pain barrier and even suffering the beginnings of heat stroke.

I put their performances down to the brutal training we did prior to the tour, in Colombo for the Champions Trophy. With so much time between games, we worked extremely hard. While all of the other teams trained in the cool of the mornings and evenings, we took on the full brunt of the sun’s heat around midday. I remember Mark Waugh questioning the approach during one intense session, but I insisted the benefits would come in Sharjah and they did.

We prepared for the worst and we got it. Whilst 50+ degrees is ridiculous to play sport in, we coped with it much better than Pakistan and it remains one of my favourite performances of the Australia team during my tenure as strength and conditioning coach. It demonstrated to me exactly how tough every individual in our great team was, both as a cricketer and as a man.

You don't need flash scientific equipment to prepare for these temperatures. In 2001, preparing for the famous Indian tour, Colin “Funky” Miller used a heat chamber at Melbourne University, Hayden trained in the middle of the day in the Queensland heat and the Waugh twins, alongside McGrath, trained in my gym wearing jackets and beanies, with the heating turned on. During our winters, Ricky Ponting also used to train with a heat suit on and more recently Peter Siddle showed just how hard he has worked on his conditioning by pushing through the heat in the Adelaide Test. There are no excuses. There is always a way.

Here are some take home tips for heat training:

• It takes around 10-11 sessions to acclimatise to hot humid conditions.

• Gradually build the time in these sessions, start with 20mins of heat training at the end of a normal session and progress by adding on 5-10mins of heat training per session.

• Take at least three weeks to gradually build heat tolerance with a day between each session

• Prepare for the most extreme conditions you might face in competition. That's professionalism.

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