How to stay hydrated when you're sheep shearing
We work with athletes from a whole range of sports. There's the mainstream sports like cycling, running, triathlon and team sports like football (of both varieties!), rugby, baseball and basketball. But there's also more niche sports like SUP, motor racing, kayaking, canoeing, MMA etc etc. So, we're used to developing hydration strategies for a lot of different individuals and scenarios. But when we picked up the phone and were asked to work on a hydration plan for a sheep-shearing world record attempt, we must admit we were a little surprised.
At first, we had a little giggle about it, but when you look into it this is a serious sport and one heck of a physical challenge. On July 26th, Kiwi Matt Smith will have a crack at the World Strongwool Nine Hour Ewe World Shearing Record at his farm in Cornwall. It's the first time a world record attempt has taken place anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. That's nine straight hours of back breaking, sweaty work. He'll have to shear 721 ewes to bag the record. That's a sheep every 45 seconds. Every 45 seconds for NINE HOURS.
Matt came to us for an Advanced Sweat Test and whilst we put his hydration strategy together for him, we asked him a few questions about his sport and why he's signed up for such a gruelling challenge...
So, Matt, what made you want to do this?
Well, records are made to be broken really and I've been doing this for a long time and I want to go out on top. I'll still do it professionally but i’ve been aiming for this record for 14 years and I'll probably slow down once I've made the attempt.
How have you been training for this? What does your typical week look like?
I've been specifically training for about 6 months. I work 6 days a week, with 6-10 hour days of not much but shearing. I also do around an hour, an hour and a half in gym, doing things like circuit training, and strength and conditioning work with my trainer Michael Goodman at LA Fitness. You know, lifting a lot of sandbags, kettle balls and tyres to try to simulate lifting up the sheep, who can really vary in weight and be awkward buggers.
How does your diet change in the run up to a record attempt?
I've not had a beer since Christmas! I eat pretty healthily, typically meat and veg. I have a lot of venison and fish.
Matt will have to change his cutters every 15-20 minutes.
You say you expect to burn more calories during the attempt than if you were doing 3 marathons, how will you stay fuelled on the day?
It’s pretty warm at that time of year, especially in the sheds. I think I'll start with a banana and some oatmeal and maybe an omelette in the morning. Then I'll be eating things like sweet potato mash throughout the day to keep my energy up.
Not many physical challenges rely on other living things, can the sheep mess things up for you?
About one in a hundred will be pretty nasty and try to resist you. They can really kick you!
Matt comes from a family of sheep-shearing record holders. His brothers, Rowland and Douglas, are also champion shearers who hold the world record for shearing 1,066 ewes in eight hours between them.
At this point I told Matt about the time I successfully tackled a goat on a cattle ranch in Australia. He smiled and laughed politely but I don't think he was particularly impressed with my accomplishment...
What's the hardest thing about the challenge?
Probably the fact that you don’t know how much weight you’re going to be handling. We’re trying to keep them all under 60kg, but it does vary.
Matt is used to a different kind of shed than the one he had his Advanced Sweat Test in...
Why did you want to get your sweat tested?
Well I suffered from pretty bad cramps in some of my past record attempts and my coach Michael did a bit of digging around and found you guys. In the shed it will be about 7 degrees hotter than whatever it is outside, which could be pretty hot anyway in July, so I'll be sweating a hell of a lot and so I know I need to keep on top of replacing what I'm losing in that sweat.
What will you do to celebrate when you break the record?
There will DEFINETELY be an afterparty and any sheep that kick could end up on the barby...