At the London 2012 Paralympic Games David Weir won 4 gold medals:
- 800m T54
- 1500m T54
- 5000m T54
- Marathon T54
He is affectionately known as “the Weirwolf“.
David Weir competes in both long distance and middle distance races. He has been described as “one of the best wheelchair athletes in the world” by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and as “Britain’s top wheelchair racer” by the BBC. He was made an MBE in 2009. He is also a patron for the London 2012 Games. Here are some of his achievements:
- He has won the London marathon 4 times (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2012)
- He holds the British record at all track distances up to 5000m
- He won 4 medals in the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games
- Gold in the 800m T54*
- Gold in the 1500m T54
- Silver in the 400m T54
- Bronze in the 5000m T54
- He won 2 medals in the 2004 Summer Paralympic Games
- Silver in the 100m T54
- Bronze in the 200m T54
*T54 refers to the type of disability and racing event. T means Track and 54 refers to an athlete with a spinal cord injury or an amputee, who is fully functional above the waist.
Like many middle distance athletes David’s training involves covering a lot of distance every week. Training includes long road pushes, 1 mile track pushes and 400m interval training.
When training for an event David Weir performs 2 workouts every day. Sometimes first is a longer distance road push. Then this is followed later in the day with the track workout where he performs 400m interval sprints. In one workout he will perform 8 sets of 400m sprints, with a slow recovery cycle in between each set. Just like with running, performing 400m sprints helps to raise VO2 levels and also improve lactic acid management. Regular workouts make the body more efficient, i.e. fitter.
The longer distance training is done to build up endurance. These also help to burn extra calories to keep fat levels down. Regular 30-45 minutes pushes provide a good level of cardio training for middle distance athletes. David Weir does regular road pushes of up to 10 miles in the mornings for his distance training, sometimes doing these in the morning and then the sprint training in the evenings.
In the Gym
David Weir’s gym sessions usually last around one hour. He does not train with weights every day, he tends to do weight training and sprint training on alternate days. In the gym weight training is performed to strengthen the arms. A combination of dumbbell training and resistance machine are used, with bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses, lat pull downs forming the main exercises.
Pushing a wheelchair uses a punching motion, with the fists striking the top of the wheel and pushing it downwards. Therefore, the most important muscles are the triceps and the shoulders. Also, rather than performing just the more traditional weight lifting exercise, Weir performs movements which mimic the pushing for the wheel. Performing bench presses and chest presses with a vertical grip is one way to strengthen the muscles for pushing. These are the core exercises. Also abdominal workouts are important as a strong core is needed for support.
Most of his gym work is done in the winter months – he uses this time to bulk up. As with all fitness training, it is vital to warm up for 10-15 minutes before starting the more intensive workouts. Warm ups are usually done with exercise bands, followed by stretching.
Diet and Nutrition
The rules are really no different than for other athletes. He needs to take in plenty of protein to aid muscle growth and repair, plus carbohydrates for endurance work. When he is not doing the distance training, carbs are reduced to prevent weight gain. Good nutrition and hydration are also essential to reach peak performance.
One of his role models is Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. She won 11 Paralympic Gold medals between 1992 and 2004, plus 5 silvers and a bronze. The bronze was her first medal, won in the 400m at the Seoul 1988 Games.
Did you know? The Paralympic Games were names because they are held in parallel to the Olympic Games, and not because they feature paralysed athletes, as many people assume.