Ricky Ponting’s Training Furnace
By Jock Campbell
Ricky Ponting became the first cricketer to play in 100 Test wins after Australia defeated Sri Lanka by 125 runs in the first Test in Galle last month. A great achievement and shows just how successful Australia has been over the past 15 years - Well done Punta.
But how do you stay at the top for so long, and how do you compete in such harsh, hot and humid conditions when your pre season training has been done in Australia’s winter where the temp on average is 20 degrees cooler with half the humidity? Simple enter the world of heat training, done “old school’!
What the public sees in sport are the lights, colours and excitement of performances at the actual events, what they don’t see is the hard slog, away from the cameras and crowds of the preparation, and is what all great athletes slog away with. One country and series that demands great preparation is the hot, humid and polluted conditions of Sri Lanka. Australia before last month had only ever won a single Test series in Sri Lanka, which was in 2004 when we toured there last and we prepared very well for the heat on that occasion. So for an ageing cricketer who has great motivation still at the ripe old age of 36, Ricky who knows this and thrived on getting prepared for the heat! He doesn’t ask for concessions at this age, he does more than ever!
How is this achieved, how do we prepare for this?
One difficult aspect of heat training is the disruption to your normal training routine it can cause if not done wisely. Heat training causes increased fatigue levels, time constraints with having to travel to use heat chambers at universities and the associated problems of not being able to train specifically for cricket whilst in the heat chambers.
What’s the solution?
Adapt, improvise and overcome! It’s not rocket science, the same reason’s why the Kenyans run well at altitude (because they’re born and live there and are most used to those conditions) is the same reasons why Sri Lankans perform well in the heat. The solution is to start getting ready early.
Science and research shows us it takes a good 10-12 conditioning sessions of gradually increasing intensity and duration for most individuals to acclimatize to hot and humid conditions. To try and do this once arriving in a Sri Lanka whilst overcoming jetlag is leaving it too late and not a smart option. That’s why Punta did it early in the cold and dark winter of a Sydney pre season.
The way Ricky did it and a very good option is the use of heat suits during normal training with the heater turned up full boar in our very own Jock Athletic training facility, otherwise known as “our gym”. It’s not glamorous and annoys the other young athletes in the gym (boo hoo!) but that’s how we roll.
We got Ricky to gradually introduce the heat suits over a 3 week period leading up to the tour so that when he arrived in Sri Lanka it was all about game preparation.
To limit disruption to Ricky’s specific cricket preparation (ie not alter any planned sessions) he started with 20mins at the end of his session with the heater up and wearing the heat suit, which consisted of his normal training gear, plus beanie (usually mine), waterproof golf jacket and tracksuit pants. This works really well for not only the heat conditioning for the sub continent, but also simulates the high humidity (over 90% often) of Sri Lanka. The heat suits trap the sweat inside the heat suit and don’t allow any evaporation of the sweat (one of the bodies cooling mechanisms), which also occurs during physical activity in high humidity conditions.
We gradually increased the length of the heat conditioning sessions during the acclimatization process every second day until Ricky was completing full 2-hour heat sessions at high intensity during his 11th and 12th sessions.
Scientists will say that isn’t the exact temperature or humidity of the sub continent, but no two days are the same even in the one city in Sri Lanka, and even within the same day conditions drastically change, so over time I have found this the cheapest, most practical method to use and have had great success with it as well. Judging by Punta’s early form where he scored a match winning 90 in game 2 of the ODI’s and a solid 40 in game 1, and to see him run around the field with the energy of a 20 year old, it seems to have worked well. This is the same method I used on him and the rest of the Australian team before a tour of Sharjah (UAE) where we outplayed and coped with the heat far better than the Pakistan Team in 2002 where the heat hit 52 degrees (see the temperature gauge for proof!)
Ricky Ponting is one of our all time greats, and you only get a great player when loads of talent is combined with exceptional and consistent preparation and that’s Ricky. Everything he achieves, he deserves. It also helps that he’s a tough little so and so, mentally as strong as I’ve seen!
Key points and what you can do to prepare for the heat
- Gradually increase heat and humidity tolerance sessions at the end of each normal training session (start with 20mins)
- Do a session every second day to allow full recovery from each heat session – add on 5-7 minutes each session
- Completing 10-12 sessions within three week period will improve your heat tolerance greatly
- Even a change of 5-10degrees in temperature can have a massively negative impact on performance; so get prepared even for the first hot day of summer.
- Try and have as little disruption to your normal training as possible
- Make no excuses – find a way! You wont always be able to use the most expensive and perfect equipment, but you will be able to get it done.
Jock Campbell is a Sports Scientist, Elite Strength & Conditioning Coach & Level 3 Athletics coach. From 2000 -2005 Jock was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Australian Cricket Team. During this period the Team was World Champions in both Test Match (No. 1 in Test rankings) and One Day Cricket (World Cup winners 2003 and no.1 in World rankings); it was the most successful period in the teams history. For more on Jock, see About Us.