Behind the scenes: Physiology with GB Rowing
Behind the scenes: Physiology with GB Rowing
Sarah Hardman is the English Institute of Sport's lead physiologist for the southern region, and worked with the Great Britain Olympic and Paralympic Rowing squads during London 2012.
Responsible for overseeing the training programmes of over 50 Olympic and Paralympic athletes in the lead up to the Games, she worked on-site at the GB Rowing training lake and at their land training base at Bisham Abbey to ensure the Rowers had physiological support whenever required.
The GB Rowing physiology team were on hand to monitor and evaluate training after every session, working hard to ensure athletes were on-weight and maximised their power potential.
Sarah had a busy work schedule over the summer, and while the focus now turns to planning ahead for the next four-year Olympic cycle, she provided eis2win.co.uk with a little insight to the work done over the last 12 months which helped Great Britain achieve an impressive four Olympic gold medals, 2 silver and one bronze, and one Paralympic gold.
Explain a little bit about your role at the English Institute of Sport?
Primarily I work on the ground with Great Britain rowers at their training lake or at their land-based training centres. I basically look under the ‘bonnet’ and assess how they are responding to training.
How much time do you spend with the athletes?
I'm at the majority of training sessions looking at various different markers, sometimes blood, sometimes gas analysis just to see how they are responding to their training programme.
I work with women’s, men’s and lightweight squads and the adaptive rowers in the Paralympic squad, so everyone really.
We usually deal with the athletes on a squad-by-squad basis, but every morning they start training at 7.30am through to around 3pm, so I would say probably on average around 30 hours a week (I’m not full-time compared to the other two physiologists who do more hours). We see them in training everyday and at weekends as well.
Tell us a little bit about your London 2012 experience?
London 2012 was a really exciting time for me. I worked with the Olympic team right the way up to their training camp before the Games and before they went into the Olympic Village.
And as the Olympic team went into the village the Paralympic team returned back from their training camp so I had a Paralympic holding camp to work on in Caversham at their training lake.
So I had two roles, I was watching and enjoying the Olympics having worked with the teams right up until they went, and then I was right in the thick of it with the Paralympic athletes before they moved into the Village.
How many rowers do you work with overall?
Specifically with the Paralympic team I worked with around eight athletes, but up until the Games and throughout the training year, I worked with between 80 and 100 rowers.
We have all the development programme athletes in to start with, and then the numbers get fine-tuned down to the Olympic squad, which had 48 members.
How many physiologists work with GB Rowing?
I'm in a team of three physiologists. There are two physiologists who work for GB rowing full-time, and them I'm two days a week. I also spend half a day a week with the Paralympic athletes, and then the rest of my job is taken up as technical lead and managing the lab here at Bisham Abbey.
What does your work as an EIS technical lead entail?
The term technical lead means I am the lead physiologist for the south region, leading the team of physiologists who are based down here.
I also work very closely with the national lead, Steve Ingham, developing physiology throughout the network and working on external collaborations.
I also manage the laboratory and the environmental chamber we have at Bisham, and all of the other sports that wish to use the facility, so that involves communication with lots of different people, particularly the operations managers at the EIS.
Do you work with any other sports?
I don't deliver to other sports, but I have to manage sports that use the facilities here. So I deal with coaches, performance directors or whoever it may be who wants to come and use the chamber. We've even had Comic Relief here in the past!
What other areas of EIS expertise do the Rowing physiologists work closely with?
Within rowing, mainly the strength and conditioning team. But we work with all disciplines really, performance analysts and performance lifestyle too. Physiology needs to interact with all forms of sports science and sports medicine - it depends on the situation.
Every boat class has its own needs. The lightweights are a particular population as they have to be a certain weight in order to compete, whereas with the open weight rowers then there's an ideal weight but there's no set criteria on what they have to be.
So as a physiologist you are working very closely with nutrition and strength and conditioning with the lightweights in particular to make sure that they are fit and healthy and they are achieving weight in the best possible way, whilst maximising the power without reducing body mass too much.
Now that the Olympic year is nearing an end, has your focus solely switched to the next four-year cycle?
I started planning for Rio 2016 over the summer. I had a little notebook with me to write down ideas when things came up for anything that we wanted to try this year that we didn't have time to, and anything that would be more appropriate for the first year of this next Olympic cycle.
The planning process for Rio started 12 to 18 months ago, but right now we're getting into the nitty gritty of planning, we've had lots of review meetings and after the review meetings come the planning meetings. We’re already back on the water, and training is gradually building back up to the levels it was last winter.
To learn more about the English Institute of Sport's expertise in physiology, click here.