As you sleepily wander around the house in your pyjamas on Christmas morning, spare a thought for 28 year old Olympic single sculling hopeful (and world silver and bronze medallist) Alan Campbell who’ll be enjoying a rather more energetic Christmas. Friday’s Guardian explains his routine:
I get up pretty early, usually about 6.30am. I’ll have a quick bowl of cereal then straight into the car. Then I head for Portrush East Strand, where I run along the beach to the far end. There’s another beach there called the White Rocks, which has the longest sand hill on the north coast of Ireland. Then I do 20 laps of the sand dune. Hopefully it’s not going to be frozen over like it was last year, when I had to take a shovel with me and dig a path to get up the dune because it was -14C.
Then I run back, into the car and home for a shower before going to church. We go to the local Presbyterian church I was brought up in. I don’t go to church all the time but I actually really enjoy it at Christmas. It gives me an hour’s rest, an hour to sit down. Then after church I’ll go straight down to my boat club where I’ve got two 350k [meant to say two or three 50kg] sandbags set up and I’ll do shuttle runs for 40 minutes carrying them back and forth.
Then after that I’ll do an hour of sawing, half an hour on both arms. I’ve a big bow saw and a telegraph pole I just do big cuts into. The sawing helps get that long movement back and forth with both arms. I know it’s a bit Rocky IV, but that is one of my favourite movies. All I need is a picture of Ivan Drago, maybe some minders watching me while I run up the mountain. Then it’ll be Christmas lunch. We have all the family over, loads of cousins and it’s more of a Christmas feast: turkey, gammon, potatoes, mash, sprouts, Scottish broth, Christmas pudding. My mum really loves cooking it all and we all really go overboard.
I’m not a superstitious person, but my one thing is that in the summer in the middle of the regatta season before I go out to race I’ll be sitting there with headphones on listening to Christmas music.
It reminds me of being in the car listening to music going down to do that session. As a single sculler you do spend a lot of time on your own, you do have to be highly motivated. There’s a lot of single-mindedness, a lot of big-headedness and you need to get an edge from somewhere in Olympic year.
It’s not that my training is better than anyone else’s but it’s definitely tougher. Going and running up sand dunes like that is quite hard. So when I get on to the start line I know that I’ve made that sacrifice at Christmas, and maybe the others don’t. It just gives me confirmation that I deserve to be there.