Driven to train hard - Driver training at the Omnium
Building the most efficient solar car is not enough to win the Moroccan Solar Challenge. The four team members who will drive Green Spirit 2400km through unknown territory need to be trained mentally and physically in order to reach the finish quickly and safely. During the last months, our drivers have been coached at the Omnium, the sports medical center in Groningen. Thanks to the broad expertise of the health professionals at the Omnium, we feel perfectly prepared for our next big challenge! Over the course of the driver training, all drivers complete physical, psychological, dietetic and functional assessments.
The physical examination of our drivers is a crucial part of the health assessment provided by the Omnium. Like every physical, it included measuring the height, weight and blood pressure of the driver. Cholesterol level, blood sugar and iron were also recorded. By asking about the driver’s and their family’s medical history, potential health risks could be identified and taken into consideration.
After those first tests, the driver’s flexibility and eyesight were examined. After all, being able to see obstacles on the road is of high importance during the race. Finally, the medical experts did several EKGs, one during relaxation and one during exercise. During the stress EKG, the drivers had to cycle on a spin bike for about 10 minutes while the resistance increased steadily. That way it became harder and harder to achieve the required amount of cycles. Besides the EKG, the experts measured the components of the driver’s breath during the exercise.
Our drivers found the physical examination provided by the Omnium very useful and professional. It is motivating to see your progress during the stress EKG, especially since our drivers repeat this test periodically. The Omnium usually offers this test to professional athletes, that is why the medical professionals are true experts in their field and explain the test results in great detail.
Sports psychological assessment
Besides physical fitness, mental fitness is an important aspect for every successful solar car pilot. When driving in the desert where there is nothing there except for a lot of sand and one straight road, the drivers need to be able to focus on their task without getting distracted. Luckily, the Omnium provided us with sports psychological assessments. Sports psychology is a specific area of psychology that aims at improving the performance of athletes.
During the sessions with the sports psychologist, our drivers came to terms with how their lifestyle influences their mental health and concentration. How much our drivers sleep, when they eat, how they handle stress and how much they relax are good indicators of their mental state. To train their concentration during the session, they had to fully focus on a plant in the office and count how many times they got distracted by their surroundings. At the end of the session, they set themselves individual goals that they want to work on over the course of the driver training.
What the drivers especially liked about the session is its informal atmosphere, they never felt forced to share anything they didn’t feel comfortable with. They also received really useful tips in order to work on their mental health outside of the sessions.
Sports dietetic assessment
Anyone who has at least a little knowledge on healthy living knows that food is the base for a strong body and healthy lifestyle. That is why the driver training includes a session with one of the sport dietitians at the Omnium. After measuring their Body-Mass-Index (BMI), the dietitian talked about the overall lifestyle of the drivers, their sleep and work rhythm and when they usually eat. Afterwards, the health expert analysed the nutritional value of the drivers’ diet based on the food pyramid. That way the drivers learned if their current diet is balanced and if they have any vitamin deficiencies. Before they can dive deeper into the world of sports nutrition, they have to make sure their normal diet is balanced.
The drivers enjoyed the informative session with the dietician and received recommendations on how to improve their diet. The dietician also took special lifestyle choices like vegetarianism into consideration and gave advice that fits the drivers’ specific circumstances.
Lastly, our drivers had a functional screening to analyse which of their muscles need to be trained more. After warming up on a spin bike, they were strapped onto a special chair to test their leg strength. By lifting up each leg while sitting on this chair, the medical experts could measure the strength of the drivers’ hamstrings and quadriceps. Afterwards, they had to jump as high as they could to test their ankle joints.
Like with the other tests and screenings, the Omnium experts were very professional and explained the test outcomes in a detailed manner. That way, the drivers always knew how they could improve their performance.
Based on the outcomes of all four assessments, every driver received a tailor-made training plan from the Omnium. With the help of a personal trainer, they currently work out twice per week. We are really glad that the Omnium gives us the opportunity to train like professionals for our upcoming race in Morocco. Thank you to all experts for bringing us to our limits and showing us how to push them further!