Vauxhall blogger Pete Lansley documents his experience at Perform St. George’s Park as he puts his body through similar conditions to that of Manaus, Brazil. Tension is rising. It is almost time for battle to commence. The participants sip nervously from their water bottles, eyeing each other up, waiting to enter the arena. Who can deal with the pressure, the glare of the TV cameras, the sweat dripping into their eyes? Who can take the heat?
This, in the Perform gym at St. George’s Park, is where England’s battle plan for the opening of their World Cup campaign has been forged. When Steven Gerrard leads the team out against Italy in Manaus on Saturday evening, the players will know exactly what to expect. Their preparation for temperatures reaching into the 30s and humidity stretching to 80 per cent was honed here at the FA National Football Centre a fortnight ago, in between acclimatisation trips to Portugal and Miami, and so when I was invited to join a group of journalists in the environment chamber, I jumped at the chance to see what it was like. We’ve read about James Milner saying what a great benefit it was. Apparently, the windows of the small room in the corner of the sumptuous hi-tec Perform St. George’s Park gym were absolutely steaming after groups of five England players at a time cycled for sessions of 20 then 30 minutes. Ian Aylward, the strength and conditioning coach for Perform at SGP, believes this is the best an England football team will have ever been prepared for a World Cup finals, led by a team of sports scientist experts such as Dave Redding, who helped Sir Clive Woodward’s team win the Rugby World Cup. Research cas and you’ll learn it’s a motor speech disorder, not right my essay a life-threatening disease; Without the acclimatisation schedule, Aylward reckons European players would, on average, start wilting before the end of the first half. Players can expect to sweat up to five litres over 90 minutes, double what they would in an English Premier League match, and require 3. 75 litres of fluid to rehydrate, five times as much. After a tour of the Perform facilities at SGP, where the cold/ warm water pool and the underwater treadmill offer an enticing cool-down prospect ahead of the sweat-out, we enter the conditioning chamber five at a time. Only after completing a medical form in which someone jests we are signing our lives away. Awaiting my turn, I undertake a body composition analyser test. Although slightly overweight, I’m chuffed that the results indicate that my metabolic age is five years younger than my birth certificate. Fit and fat. Now, with heart-rate strap attached, for 20 minutes on the exercise bike. We start at 32 degrees Celsius and 68 per cent humidity. I take it easy for the first eight minutes, wary of what tropical humidity might do. Ian can see the readings and when told I’m operating at 44 per cent of maximum heart rate, decide to go for it. Spurred on by Jonty Sargeant, a young lad from Signal Radio, we reach 90 per cent of capacity on the homeward stretch, yielding a ripple of applause. Now imagine doing that for 90 minutes. And trying to do creative things with the ball, at the highest level of sport, any time, anywhere, while ensuring some of the world’s best ball-keepers don’t find you out of position. If the humidity crashes through the expected level in the Arena Amazonia, and temperatures soar towards the body’s 37 degrees, then sweating will become more difficult, and won’t evaporate. This is why England’s sports scientists have individualised rehydration drinks for the players, because their precision hydration readings from Perform St. George’s Park will indicate what water and electrolytes need replacing. The more blood that is directed to the external surface of the body, the more plasma levels are altered. The blood thickens, there’s greater stress on the heart and the blood vessels that supply the muscles, brain and other organs with oxygen and nutrients. This would lead to a loss in neuromuscular function, mental and cognitive alertness. And we all know you can’t afford to switch off in international football. Yet inevitable fatigue means someone will. Whether that is Andrea Pirlo or Jordan Henderson on Saturday night in the Brazilian jungle could come down to how well they have prepared their hydration strategies. Perform at St. George’s Park, based at The FA National Football Centre, is Spire Healthcare’s flagship human performance and sports medicine centre in the UK. The Perform at St. George’s Park team treat hundreds of professional footballers every year, largely through the PFA residential scheme, as well as welcoming members of the local public looking for recovery and rehabilitation.