The Sunshine Hit

Kerry MacPhee | Monday 6th April, 2015

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I think I've finally cracked it... every December/January without fail I mysteriously start running on empty. Flat, tired, lethargic, grumpy and zero motivation. Before I was a cyclist I was a triathlete, and before I was a triathlete I was a little bit purer and only ran… yet come the end of the cross-country season I was as flat as a pancake with no ooompth. Surprise surprise the same thing happened this year... tired, anxious and panicking about over/under training and absolutely no zip in the legs. Why does it always happen in January? Well I have a theory. For the first time (thank you Scottish cycling and the Institute of Sport) I have had some testing (standard procedure as an institute of Sport supported athlete) and I, like quite a lot of athletes tested low in Vitamin D. The sunshine drug, so called because the body manufactures Vitamin D from UVB rays can also be absorbed via diet through food such as oily fish (salmon… nom nom nom), liver and eggs however sunshine is the easiest way to ensure its absorption. So how can I be deficient? I am outside peddling my bike waaaay more than the average punter and I see lots of sunshine (amongst the hail, snow and driving wind), so surely I must be getting my fair share? Hmm, not quite as straight forward as that. As a cyclist in bonnie wintry Scotland my attire means the only patch available to the sun is in fact the gap between my helmet and sunglasses and then the gaps around my cheeks and mouth (when I don’t cover this up to look like a bank robber). Couple this with the fact that if you live north of Birmingham, the angle of the sun basically means we don’t get any of the correct UVB rays for Vitamin D to be manufactured, we basically go 5 months of the year without it. Mad! And my naturally curious mind instantly started reading up on Vitamin D deficiency and it turns out this is quite prevalent in Scotland. Performance wise, there is lots of conflicting evidence but as per most supplements, some athletes are higher responders than others. Anecdotally supplementation seems to help and my January blues certainly align themselves with many of the snippets I read. So what exactly am I pertaining to here? Really, I just wanted to tell you all that I went on a fantastic training camp in March. I and three other fellow mountain bikers headed to Banyoles, north of Girona for 10 days of warm-weather training and a race to finish. Now the reason I brought up Vitamin D was because heading off on camp got me thinking. I had heard through the grapevine about how camps were seen by some as a waste of time, resource and money and I mulled this over for a while. And I came to a conclusion, quite a logical conclusion I would say unlike the naysayers. 10 days of camp for me meant: No work for 10 days, no distractions or partners or friends to see, no puppies called Bungle to annoy me and make me play, lots of structured, coached training sessions, compulsory daily gym and stretching sessions, healthy food, good recovery between sessions, season planning, spending time with highly motivated and goal orientated individuals and a wonderful daily hit of sunshine! So all other positives aside such as the training gains and highly motivated athletes touching back down to a Scottish gale at Prestwick airport, my health needs were also given a good boost. So camps are good. No arguments or further reasoning required. Winter training camps aren’t something I have ever done and I have never been away in December for a sunshine hit but this year I will make a point of it, more to prove my theory right. Will I get the January blues come 2016 or will a well thought out ‘galivant’ keep my motivation levels (both mentally induced and vitamin induced)at a level I have never seen in January before? Give me a year and I’ll get back to you on this one.


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