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What is the point of a warm weather winter break?

What is the point of a Warm Weather Winter break?

It has come to the point in the season where the Premier League takes a break, and sides jet off around the world to indulge in “warm weather Winter breaks”. But what do they do, where are they going, and what could it mean for the rest of the season?

To take but two examples, both Newcastle and Arsenal have jetted off to the middle east to enjoy some warm weather recuperation.

And, according to sports scientist Dr. Rajpal Brar, there are certainly mental and physical benefits to be had by opting to head to a warmer climate.

Indeed, the mental benefits outweigh the physical ones, as Brar revealed: “I think to me the first one is, first and foremost, mental. You’re able to get that break from your normal environment and routines, and just have that mental break.

“Especially in the UK, I think with the lack of sunlight and the cold weather, all of a sudden you’re going to warm weather and more sunlight, which we know can have an effect on your mood, so I always think mental first in that regard”.

Mental health is certainly becoming an increasingly important pillar in the conversations surrounding footballers, with Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic the most recent player to be affected by the issues.

But that is not to say that there are not physical benefits to heading away too.

“I think one of them that people maybe underestimate is getting Vitamin D. I think research shows that something like 60% of athletes in the UK are vitamin D deficient, and that can be attributed to lack of sunlight exposure,” Brar explained.

‘”Another thing is that, when you are in warmer weather, it allows you to warm up faster, so you don’t have to have extended warm-up periods that cut into training time.”

And there is even more good news for those on the treatment table over the period away.

“When you have players that are dealing with Muscular injury and niggles or whatever it is, that mental aspect is, of course, going to benefit them, while it gives you as a physio more one-on-one time with them in a positive, warm and friendly environment.”

How do clubs choose their destinations? 

In the cases of Arsenal and Newcastle, their training camps are chosen at least in part due to their ownership and sponsorship, heading to Dubai and Jeddah respectively.

Not everybody has gone, mind, with players still away on international duty both in Africa and South America, and some simply not called up to take part. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stripped of the captaincy in November, and has not featured since. Now, he isn’t even on the plane to the winter camp.

It’s not solely down to sponsors, though: Manchester United have also headed to Dubai, so why are hot countries so much preferred?

“When it’s warmer, it’s just easier for your muscles to be loose and pliable. We know heat tends to increase mobility” Brar claims. ‘This is important because a lot of injuries, generally speaking, come within the first ten minutes of a player being back on the pitch because that muscle is not adapted to what you’re doing, or towards the end when the muscle becomes overfatigued.”

Individuals also head out to Dubai to do rehab, with Paul Pogba having headed out to the middle east in December in order to recover from his thigh injury sustained on international duty with France. 

Choice of destination cannot all be down to sponsorship though. For instance, Chelsea, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, are rarely seen jetting off to Russia in the middle of winter for their breaks.

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 16: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich looks on from the stands during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on April 16, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Would clubs be as willing to undertake them to a colder climate?

“I don’t see why they would be as willing, because if you’re going to move and all the logistics that brings. You don’t have the same facilities either, so if you are going to move, you might as well go somewhere that is going to offer the most benefits,” explains Dr Brar. 

“I think clubs might still go because, let’s face it, the winter up in the UK can be pretty brutal. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the teams you hear about doing this are all going to warmer climates whether it’s sponsored or not.”

He continued: “I think you have teams that make use of the sponsors to be able to do these things, as it makes it easier for them to do these warm-weather trips.”

What are the other benefits?

Aside from the potential physical benefits, the winter breaks are a chance for increasing squad harmony and ensuring that players begin to pull in the same direction.

As Brar puts it: ‘There’s also the benefit of team camaraderie. They aren’t subject to the usual media scrutiny, or team or family requests. You’re literally just all there together, so it becomes a team bonding exercise while you are there.”

Arsenal players huddle during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in London on May 12, 2021.  (Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

So, how will this all translate onto the pitch?  

“Its hard to quantify,” Brar begins. “I think the biggest thing is about freshness. Having players getting back to 100% and being, not just physically ready but mentally as well especially as teams enter into these last three months or so.”

For Newcastle, who are fighting to stay in the top flight, the boost could be enormous. For Arsenal too, it could be the difference between finishing in the top four, and having to settle for a Europa League spot or worse. 

Read more:

Newcastle offer second bid of 20 million euros for full-back as Armando Broja bid mooted

Arsenal line up two new targets after Vlahovic and Guimaraes let-down

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What is the point of a warm weather winter break?


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