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Navigating long-haul travel as a performance athlete

The life of an international athlete is one marked by constant movement, and the challenges of long-haul travel, jetlag, and different time zones can significantly impact performance.
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In collaboration with British Wheelchair Basketball, we’ve gathered invaluable insights and tips to help athletes maintain their peak form on the court while navigating the complexities of international athlete travel.

Strategic sleep schedule adjustments

Navigating time zone changes demands a thoughtful approach to sleep schedules. Nathan Payne, Performance Engagement Manager, explains, “The week leading into the trip, we share travel strategies with the athletes. This includes changing the sleep schedule based on the destination’s time zone, allowing athletes to bank sleep closer to the landing time.” 

Joey Johnson, from the GB Men’s coaching team, underscores the importance of arriving in optimal condition, “Being that we are only together for such a limited time, we need to maximise that time by being rested and as close to 100% from the first moment we hit the court.”

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Tailored flight plans for quality rest

Recognising individual sleep habits, Payne notes, “Athletes have individual flight plans tailored to their sleeping habits. While we encourage avoiding screen time, some athletes prefer distractions like movies.” Balancing individual preferences while maintaining overall sleep quality is a key consideration in their approach.

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Prioritise physical readiness through hydration

Joy Haizelden, a GB Women’s player, stresses the significance of arriving well-rested and physically prepared after long-haul travel, “One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been told is to ensure that I’m hydrated at least a couple of days before the flight, this way when I travel and arrive, I’m not having to catch up on being dehydrated.” She emphasises the importance of being prepared with a water bottle and plenty of snacks.

Controlled caffeine intake

Managing the impact of caffeine on sleep is pivotal. Payne highlights the challenge, stating, “Staff and athletes need to adhere to a strict caffeine limit, considering flight times and availability. Controlling caffeine intake becomes challenging, but it’s vital for optimal performance.”

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Creative jetlag solutions

Handling jetlag within a tight schedule requires creative solutions. Payne shares, “We’ve run activities like a photo hunt during the day and quizzes at night to keep athletes occupied.” These activities aim to strike a balance between engagement and relaxation, acknowledging the importance of both in the adaptation process.

The experiences shared by the British Wheelchair Basketball team shed light on the meticulous planning required for athletes to thrive amid the demands of international travel. In recognising these challenges, the collaboration between travel management companies and sporting federations becomes indispensable. This synergy ensures a seamless travel experience, allowing athletes to focus solely on their performance, confident that their travel arrangements are expertly managed. The partnership between these entities creates a foundation for athletes to maximise recovery, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive support beyond the court.

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