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Welsh Rugby
Warburton pushes through pain barrier
ESPNscrum Staff
July 5, 2011

Wales flanker Sam Warburton has spoken of the pain the Wales training squad are being put through in their boot camp in Poland.

Warburton, who captained the national side against the Barbarians in June, flew to the Olympic training village in Spala, Poland, on Saturday and is in the midst of a brutal training regime. The squad have been exposed to Cryotheraphy chambers, which Warburton said left one squad member begging to be let out of, twice a day. The chambers, labelled 'evil saunas' by Warburton, reduce the temperature to −120 °C (−184 °F) for two and a half minutes. The players have now progressed to -140 °C with groups of five or six packed in.

With Olympic athletes experiencing -160°C temperatures in the 'human fridges', Warburton is unsure whether the Wales squad will be asked to follow in their footsteps. "We have to cover up our extremities and wear special gloves, shorts and socks to guard against frost-bite," Warburton said. "There are also masks to put on to enable you to breathe because the air in there is too cold to take into your lungs.

"The room is full of dry ice, as you might expect, and this is what makes it reminiscent of a sauna, albeit a particularly painful and evil one. There is a small window in the door that you can look out of, but, apart from that, the conditions are pretty claustrophobic and my first experience of the chamber was a nervous one. It didn't help me to see one of the senior boys freaking out and banging to get out on his first attempt. It was totally understandable, but we haven't let him forget it either!

"We are quite used to using cold treatments in recovery and we have a huge horse box which is filled with freezing water that we use at the Vale (WRU National Centre of Excellence). But this is the first time I've been in one of these chambers and the experience is completely different. Obviously, as soon as you go in the cold hits you and you have to keep moving around just to be able to stand it.

"But then your skin temperature begins to drop and you can see the ice form on the hairs of the boys chests and you start to feel pain searing round your body."

The Welsh squad have developed their personal techniques for blocking out the 'deep freeze' experience. For Warburton, his tactic is to keep on talking. "Some people take music in on headphones and, if you can listen to a whole song, then you know you've pretty much done it and it's time to get out," he said. "My tactic is to keep talking and we've been playing word association games with each other, anything to keep your mind off the pain and help the time to go quicker.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say it was a pretty savage experience, but the other side of the coin is that it is definitely working and allowing us to train in a way that would be impossible under normal conditions."

The squad are in Poland on the current camp for 10 days with the second trip beginning July 16 and returning July 26. The squad's typical day consists of two visits to the Cryogenic chambers, an intense fitness session, a skills session and two one-hour weights sessions. The schedule would usually be split over two days but Warburton is adamant the squad have embraced the gruelling schedule.

"Normally if you'd tried to put all of that into one day, firstly you couldn't do it, but more to the point the next morning you'd be no good to anybody," continued Warburton. "But we've all been coming into breakfast saying how good we feel, we are ready and able to do it all again, so we've been very impressed with the results.

"The only thing the schedule doesn't tell you about is the odd hour's down time you get in between sessions and in the evening after that last weights work-out. Well, I know what I'm doing then and I'm pretty confident the rest of the squad are doing the same - sleeping! If you don't catch 40 minutes when you can during the day, and get your nine hours at night, you would be flagging by the time you got to that first afternoon session."

Wales face England on August 6 at Twickenham before hosting their rivals at the Millennium Stadium a week later before facing Argentina on August 20. The Welsh start their World Cup campaign against South Africa on September 11 in Wellington.

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