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Cyclist Tara Whitten has done a lot of travelling over the past few weeks — from the world road race championships in Australia directly to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, 10 races in less than two weeks. I chatted with her yesterday after she picked up her third bronze medal of these Games, in the individual pursuit, about how she handled the travel.
The cycling team — like many other Canadian national teams — has been working with Calgary sleep specialist Charles Samuels, the pre-eminent person in the field. He gave them lots of the standard advice about jet-lag, like getting as much rest as possible on the flight and then focusing on proper cycles of light and dark upon arrival.
She also used melatonin for a few days after arrival. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m trying melatonin for the first time on this trip, which started in Canada, included four nights in London, two weeks in India, and then finishes in Australia. So far I’ve been very happy with it: while I’ve been tired after the flights, I haven’t had any trouble sleeping at night and staying awake during the day. That may simply be because my flights have all had morning arrivals, after which I’ve managed to stay up all day — a good way to reset your clock even without melatonin.
Anyway, the one thing Whitten mentioned that surprised me was that she (and other cyclists, I believe) are using light visors to make sure their bodies get the “daylight” signal loud and clear at the appropriate times of day (first thing in the morning if you’re flying east, late afternoon/early evening if you’re flying west). These things (which, from what I can tell, cost a couple hundred dollars) have been around for years, and are sometimes used for seasonal affective disorder, but it’s the first time I’ve heard an elite athlete mention them.