Daniel is an aspiring athlete from County Durham in North East England; currently on trials for the Team GB Skeleton Bobsleigh development squad. He talks to Sundried about this interesting sport and his intentions for the future.
Tell us about the sport of skeleton bobsleigh.
Skeleton is an unusual sport to say the least. It involves pushing a sled on ice (in a bent-down sprinting position) for about 30m before diving head first onto the sled and piloting it down a bobsleigh track. Skeleton is one of Britain’s most successful winter sports on the world stage and at the Olympics, which is my aspiration.
Tell us about your background.
I can be easily described as a unique individual. I’ve had trouble with balance, coordination, writing and learning my whole life. Moving from sport to sport until succeeding at a decent standard in Rugby union and nationally in cross country. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I was diagnosed with moderate-severe dyslexia and dyspraxia (a condition which effects coordination, movement, learning, thought processing, proprioception and sensory disassociation) but at a very high functioning level. My level of function was suggested to be the result of deliberate conditioning and training I did from childhood onward.
Since then, I’ve graduated with a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and a Masters in Sport Nutrition, published and presented research internationally, worked with professional athletes, sports teams and youth development programmes both in the UK and in New Zealand. Additionally, I’ve competed in Rugby XV’s and 7’s in the UK and New Zealand, competed as a rock climber and won bronze in a national kayaking competition.
When did you first get into skeleton bobsleigh?
It was last year I took the opportunity to trial in a talent ID programme for Skeleton Bobsleigh. With three months to train whilst studying and working (putting on 8kg of mass to shift from climbing to skeleton), I was able to impress coaches on my two trials and have been asked to attend a call-back trial in December 2019.
I am now putting my all into preparing for that trial, using all the skills and experience from my work life to make my dream a reality, and soon with institutional backing.
How do you train for skeleton bob?
Most of my training involves a lot of work on the athletics track; I will even be competing in several indoor athletics opens this year to help hone my competitive edge.
What do you do to relax?
At home, weekends are usually spent clearing windfall and using it for woodworking projects. Relaxing usually entails beekeeping, gardening, tracking wildlife, getting willow wreaths ready for Christmas and holidays are going up to Scotland to explore, hike, climb, fish and kayak. I was brought up to respect and admire nature; my family home is only about 15m away from miles of woodland.
Why work with Sundried?
The marriage of effectiveness, style and ethical values is something I would be proud to promote as an ambassador.
One thing that all triathletes can agree upon is that winter training is the worst. Frozen fingers, numb toes, and the dreaded 'winter miles' come around every year but somehow it never gets easier. That's why here at Sundried we've come up with 10 ways to make winter training more bearable. So button up and don't lose hope just yet.
1. Invest in a great pair of gloves.
One of the worst parts of cycling outdoors in winter is frozen fingers. Cycling doesn't raise the core temperature in the same way running does and it's the extremities which suffer! Make sure you have a great pair of winter gloves at your disposal to combat against the pain of numb fingers. The Sundried winter gloves are made from 90% bamboo and are naturally great at insulating your hands without making your palms sweaty. They also feature silicon grippers to the palms so that you won't slip on wet handlebars. If cold weather gloves still aren't enough, try a pair of more heavy duty ski gloves.
2. Find an indoor set up that works for you.
Don't feel like you have to do all of your winter miles outdoors and suffer through the cold. A lot of Sundried ambassadors train indoors in the winter and this is a very common thing for a lot of triathletes. You have lots of options when it comes to training indoors, from using a spin bike at your gym to investing in a Wattbike or a Turbo Trainer. Find what works best for you and the set up you like best. Sundried ambassador and Team GB Triathlete Paul Suett has his turbo trainer set up in his garage, while fellow Team GB Triathlete Laura Rose Smith has hers in the house. So long as you make it work for you and you're comfortable, that's all that matters.
Use the tactic of layering up and utilise it to your advantage. Packable outerwear like the Sundried water-resistant jacket is perfect for outdoor winter miles because you can wear it to protect your from the elements, and then take it off and pack it away easily if you get too warm. The Sundried Grand Casse outdoor jacket packs away into its own little bag which you can clip onto you or your bike when you don't need it and whip it back out if it starts raining or even snowing. Wearing lots of layers means you can adjust your warmth and coverage throughout your ride.
4. Do a thorough warm-up.
If you start your ride cold, chances are you won't really warm up at all. Sometimes in summer we can be hot and sweaty before we even start a training session and it's easy to cut the warm up short. In winter, make sure you do a very thorough warm up so that your blood is pumping and your heart rate and core temperature are high before you even start. This will give you and your body a better chance out against the elements.
5. Make the miles count.
Don't head out and do 'junk' miles just because you think you have to. Make each mile count, and if you don't think the session will benefit you because you have a cold or the weather is particularly bad, decide whether it's actually better to skip that session all together or perhaps do a different type of training instead.
6. Don't go it alone.
Being motivated to train alone can be hard at the best of times, but particularly difficult in winter. If you don't usually ride with friends or a club, see if you can find one to join, if only for a few months. Most towns have a local cycling club who will be willing to welcome you warmly to the team. Cycling together will help to while away the hours out on the road and it'll mean you'll have team mates to help you if you experience any problems out there. Even a friend or family member to cycle with could make all the difference.
7. Don't be too hard on yourself.
Winter is a difficult time of year for everyone, from the short days and cold weather to the seasonal depression and winter illnesses, it affects us all. You'll never do your best training in winter and it will be really tough to stay motivated, so remember why you first started doing this and try to enjoy yourself as much as possible! Hopefully your motivation will thaw out in the spring.
I'm knee deep into winter training now and I am starting to feel like my running and cycling legs are back. After salvaging what I could from the 2017/18 season, I was pleased when I could finally put my feet up and reflect on what was a roller coaster year.
With the support of my coach Dave Newport, I have been focusing on building a solid endurance base over the past few months. He is a massive advocate of winter racing and so my training plan is jam packed with cross countries, cyclocross events, and road running races. It can be hard to stay motivated in the winter months, especially when competition season seems so far away and the summer kit is replaced by base layers and waterproof running jackets, but having some low key races in the pipeline has enabled me to set smaller goals and keep my training on track.
I started my winter racing off with the Midland Cross-country League... What a shock to the system! I haven't raced cross-country for over 8 years and soon realised that running downhill takes far more technique than anticipated. Getting my running form back after a bike crash and fall earlier this year has taken longer than expected but I'm finally starting to see some real progress and finishing 16th on the day was a pleasing result.
Any season should be planned out well in advance and I'm currently in the process of finalising my plans for 2019. At present, my main focuses are the major Duathlon Championships and the French Grand Prix Series. I am still looking for additional races to bulk up my season and debating whether to hit the track in the summer and see if I can secure a 5km PB, although the thought of running 12.5 laps around the track doesn’t fill me with too much excitement.
It’s been surprisingly difficult to transition from triathlon to duathlon training after the decision to focus on the latter for the upcoming year. Although I now only swim twice per week, the added loading on the legs is definitely taking its toll. The decision to drop triathlon was due to multiple reasons but mainly as a result of my selection for the GBR duathlon elite team and wanting to see just how far I can progress in the duathlon field (keep your fingers crossed for me!).
I hope you all have a great Christmas and wish you the best with your training and racing endeavours!
About the author: Laura Smith is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Many people have heard of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – which refers to the low mood often experienced in winter. Short days, lack of sunlight, and a temptation to eat more 'comfort' food can all contribute to feeling low. But is it actually making us ill? And is taking a Vitamin D supplement the answer? We take a look.
Why do people get more ill in winter?
Do you feel like you're constantly ill over the winter? Coughs, colds, and even the flu make the rounds every year and it can really get you down if it feels like it's constant. But why do we get more ill in winter? There are several factors that cause it but there are also easy ways to combat it.
Drinking less water
If you're someone who regularly drinks plenty of water, it can be hard to believe that some people never drink plain water and exist solely on soft drinks, juices, teas, coffees, or just the water their body gets from food.
In summer, the heat causes people to drink more water because it makes them sweat and makes them feel thirsty. However, in winter it can be easy to 'forget' to drink enough water due to not sweating and feeling cold. Your body needs water to stay healthy and as such, a reduced water intake in the winter could be the reason you are always falling ill and catching colds.
Eating more junk food
It's no secret that the majority of us eat a lot more junk food in winter. Comfort food as it's often called helps us feel warm and comfortable in the dark evenings and something like a salad can be very unappealing in winter. However, surviving solely on junk food can mean reduced intake of vital nutrients and as such your immune system will suffer and you'll fall ill more easily.
Lack of sunlight
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and a Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weak bones and even deformities. In the summer months, we get all the Vitamin D we need from sunlight as our body is able to create this vitamin when we have sunlight on our skin. However, in winter it is pretty much impossible to get your daily intake of Vitamin D. You can supplement your intake with certain foods such as oily fish, red meat, and eggs, however it can be a good idea to take a Vitamin D supplement.
Why you should be taking a Vitamin D supplement
During the autumn and winter, you need to get Vitamin D from your diet because the sun isn't strong enough for the body to make Vitamin D. But since it's difficult for people to get enough Vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of Vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can get all the Vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet. You may choose not to take a Vitamin D supplement during these months, however if you do take one you may well find that you get ill less frequently (if at all) and that your mood is greatly improved.
As winter draws in, it's important to make sure you take care of your bike so that it can stay well maintained and won't break down. Follow our tips to maintain your bike over the winter so that it is ready to ride for the next race season.
Store your bike indoors
If you can, storing your bike indoors could save you a lot of hassle and help your bike last longer. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to store a bike in a garage or shed and you may need to find some more creative ways to store your bike indoors. There are many products available such as racks and hooks for you to store your bike in an apartment or smaller space.
Storing your bike indoors will protect it from the elements including damp and cold and will slow the negative effects of bad weather and cold on the mechanisms and frame.
Keep your bike clean
Any good cyclist will be keeping their bike clean anyway, but keeping up dutiful maintenance will really help prolong the life of your bike over the winter.
Do the majority of your riding on an indoor trainer
This will be an unpopular one for many, but sometimes conditions simply do not allow for outdoor riding. Weather conditions in recent years have seen regular storms, hurricanes, and snow so doing the majority of your riding indoors on a trainer will not only help your bike last longer but you too!