Posted on December 23, 2017

In preparation for the upcoming season of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, the French women's national rugby union team have recently concluded a week-long training camp in Aspetar where they have benefitted from Aspetar’s innovative state-of-the-art Altitude Rooms, the first fully-integrated dormitory of its kind in the world.

The women’s rugby team visited Aspetar to prepare for the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, a five-round tournament running from November until June. The annual event attracts fans from all over the world who enjoy the sprints and sprawls of sevens rugby. Aspetar’s recently-renovated altitude dormitory is a purpose built normobaric hypoxic facility that utilises a filtration system to reduce the oxygen concentration in the air. Hypoxic training is one of the well-known practices utilised to enhance athlete performance during major competitions.

Designed specifically for elite training camps, the facility allows athletes to improve endurance by stimulating the body to increase production of red blood cells, thus increasing the proportion of oxygen in the blood. The rooms can replicate an altitude range of 500m to 5500m, enabling athletes to “live high, train low” by replicating hide altitude training from sea-level. The facility also uses advanced technology that enables conditions to be monitored remotely from anywhere in the world and can house up to 50 athletes.

France woman’s national rugby 2 [].jpgSpeaking about Aspetar’s training methodology, Dr. Olivier Girard, Research Scientist at Aspetar, said: “In 2013, Aspetar hosted the first Altitude Training and Team Sports Conference, bringing together more than 15 experts and 200 attendees. Since then, the conference has become a staple of Aspetar’s events calendar. We wanted to experiment with a new altitude training programme with the French Rugby Team to prepare them for the new rugby season. We usually go for a simulated altitude of 3km when training visiting sports teams, but this time we went for a simulated altitude of 5km, across four training sessions in the hypoxic chambers.

“This hyper-intensive training will help maximise results and improve their performance as much as possible over a short period of time. The training included the use of a special treadmill that’s only available in Qatar and one other country. We use this to measure the ground reaction force for every step made against the ground. We then benchmark their performance against that of other visitors. “We also used a new assessment methodology that focuses on a flow-mediated dilation test [the most commonly utilised non-invasive assessment of vascular functions in people]. To my knowledge, this is the first time that this sort of comprehensive assessment has been conducted for elite athletes under one roof, and we are delighted to bring cutting-edge medical and sports science support to elite teams which help to give them a competitive edge.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Sebastien Racinais, Head of Research Athlete Health and Performance in Aspetar, praised their collaborations with various French sporting organisations, saying: “We [Aspetar] have been collaborating with the French Rugby Federation for six years now. The aim of this collaboration is to develop innovative training methodologies. This partnership has recently been strengthened by the signing of another Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the French National Institute of Sport (INSEP) and Aspire Zone Foundation [the parent organisation]. They first came here in 2014 before the Winter Olympics to benefit from altitude facilities where we can imitate any altitude in the world.” He added, “This collaboration helps Aspetar collect data from elite athletes which we can use to learn more about the training and then apply it to other athletes who come here from other countries.”

Commenting on their stay in Aspetar, Fanny Horta, captain of the French Female Rugby 7 National Team, said: “We came here two years ago with the French national team and at that time we stayed in a hotel nearby. Being here in the hospital allowed us to be closer to the training pitches, and it also helped in terms of time management and the ability to have a really complete day of training because we have everything here in one place: the Gym, the pool, the training pitch, the medical staff, and the fitness coaches at our disposal.”

“[Staying at the altitude rooms] was the best way for us to acclimatise to the temperature, because it’s very cold now in France and the low temperature could have a negative impact on our preparation and what we will deliver on the pitch [in Dubai]. So all this helped us to be in ideal conditions to work on our performance.”

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David Courteix, Coach of the French Female Rugby 7 National Team, Technical Staff at the French Federation of Rugby, also said: “We are here for a pre-competition ‘sharpening’ training camp. We have been here to train with a huge training load and exceptional training conditions, and we have the chance to do that here at Aspetar thanks to the partnership that we have between the French Federation of Rugby, the INSEP, and Aspetar.” “Regarding the infrastructure and the state of the art facility of Aspetar, it has no equal in the world. The sunny weather and warm temperatures are very helpful for a sport like Rugby 7,” he added.

Meanwhile, Anthony Couderc, Fitness Coach of the French Female Rugby 7 National Team, said: “Our training in Doha was different from the one we had in South Africa earlier, and focused on what we call ‘sharpening’. That means we reduce the work volume and maintain high intensity actions to be prepared for the competition. Aspetar allows us to do hypoxic training with repetitive bicycle sprint sessions at Altitude, whilst doing external training under Qatar’s warm environment on Aspire Zone’s outdoor pitches.

“Aspetar allowed us to work with the best scientists in the world, such as Dr Olivier Girard and Dr Sebastien Racinais, for the construction of our scientific protocol; which supported us to conduct advanced and developed researches.” Couderc concluded. Aspetar has become the preferred training camp destination for elite international teams and athletes. Aspetar will host the French men’s national rugby team on December 27th. Meanwhile, Aspire Zone, Aspetar’s parent organisation, is currently hosting the French athletic team, comprising prominent athletes including Kevin Mayer, the 2017 Decathlon World Champion, and will be welcoming Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich for their winter training camps in the coming weeks.