Sports scientists at the University of Bath have been helping Bath and England rugby player Lee Mears ensure he arrives in South Africa in top shape for the forthcoming British Lions tour.
Mears has been preparing for the challenge with training sessions in a hypoxic chamber at the University ahead of the Lions’ battles against the world champions.
The chamber simulates training at altitude, where air contains lower levels of oxygen.
The air in the chamber contains 14.5 per cent oxygen, compared with the 20.9 per cent in the air we breathe. This simulates the conditions athletes can expect if they were training or competing at about 2700m above sea level.
Mears and the rest of the Lions will be playing at heights of about 2400m above sea level in South Africa.
Jonathan Robinson, an applied physiologist at TeamBath’s human performance centre, said: “When Lee gets to South Africa he’ll be playing at about 2400m above sea level. We’re trying to acclimatise him for that in advance and give him a bit of a head start so he will be a step ahead when he gets there.
“Because there’s about a quarter less oxygen available to him in the chamber, Lee is training harder with an increased heart rate.”
Mears said training in the hypoxic chamber has been an important part of his preparations to tackle South Africa.
“The facilities at the University of Bath are great and when the opportunity for altitude training came along, I thought it would be really good idea.
“It’s pretty hot in the chamber and your body is getting less oxygen, so you have to work that little bit harder.”
And the Bath hooker said he can’t wait to pull on a Lions shirt.
“It’s a huge honour. It’s going to be tough, but that’s what it’s all about.
“My ultimate goal is to be the number one out there, I’ll try to produce my form at Bath in a Lions shirt and hopefully they’ll pick me,” he said. “But if I’m the second or third choice, I’ll try to help the boys as best as I can – we want to come back winners. “
The Lions kick-off their tour against a Highveld XV on Saturday 30th May and play the first of three games against South Africa on Saturday 20th June.
To see the BBC’s coverage of Lee in the altitude chamber click here.
Posted: Friday 15th May 2009