Get 'In the Zone' for Sochi

In the Zone kits

In the Zone kits were sent to every UK school and FE college in Spring 2012

We're counting down to some exceptional sport at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and have enjoyed watching In the Zone's champion, Sir Steve Redgrave CBE, on Channel 4's 'The Jump'. To give you some ideas of how to excite your students, here are some suggestions for how to get In the Zone… in the cold! Brrrrr.

The background: We are warm-blooded animals and generate heat at about 100 watts. We lose this heat through convection, conduction and radiation. In extreme conditions, such as those in Sochi, athletes need to minimise heat loss in order to compete effectively. Cooling limbs means that muscle contraction and nerve conduction are impaired, which hampers physical performance and therefore an athlete's chances of a place on the podium.

Activity 1: Should I wear a hat to make my legs work?

Your students can use large sheets of paper to make physical maps of their body's surface area. They may be surprised to see the size of their head compared with other body parts. Given that the blood vessels in our heads don't vasoconstrict well in order to minimise heat loss, it is true that we can lose 50 per cent of our body heat through our heads. So, your students will understand the reasons for wearing a hat, including to keep their legs working in cold conditions! 

Activity 2: Teacher demonstrates the impact of temperature on dexterity

In order to test the effect of cold temperatures on muscle contraction and nerve conduction, you could try some fiddly dexterity tasks before and after submerging your hand and forearm in an iced-water bath. Ask your students to record how long it takes you to do two or three tasks at room temperature and then repeat the same tasks after submersion in an ice bath of 12°C for five minutes (you'll need to keep adding ice to keep the temperature constant). Tasks could include: tying your shoelaces, peeling an orange, completing a small fiddly puzzle, opening a tough plastic container, etc. You should see a marked reduction in your dexterity, and you may notice some physiological changes within your hand and forearm too.

Activity 3: Investigate your students' questions with your In the Zone kit

How does the cold affect the body's resting heart rate? You'll know that humans and other mammals exhibit a diving reflex, a slowed resting heart rate, when their face is submerged in cold water. Does the same happen in cold air? Use the pulse oximeter in your In the Zone kit to find out. What are the effects of cold temperatures on reaction time or breathing rate?

We'd love to know how your students have been inspired by Sochi and what activities you've done in school. Do let us know at inthezone@wellcome.ac.uk or Tweet us @inthezone2014 using #sochi2014.  

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Take It Further

If you've enjoyed In the Zone, here are some ways to extend your In the Zone experience; places to learn more about science and movement; and links to related information.

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If you need information or have a question about In the Zone, please view our help and support page which contains FAQs and support for the experiments. You can also contact us by email or telephone.

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