An Olympic athlete has described how being an industrial worker is highly demanding, physically challenging and in many ways similar to training for the Olympics. Having come agonisingly close to a Silver Medal for sprint kayaking at the 2004 Athens Olympics, David Rhodes, THORZT’s business development manager, described the Olympics as a job like any other.
“It’s our workplace, on the water. I dedicated six years of training for a shot at 189 seconds of racing,” Rhodes said. “When you are giving up that much of your life for something, you want to do everything you can to perform at your best. That means putting the right fuel in your body,” he added.
With a normal morning of training consisting of around two hours of paddling, Rhodes said he would lose anywhere between one to four litres of fluid and electrolytes.
“That’s a similar amount that an industrial athlete will lose performing manual labour in a hot working environment. If you measured how tired you were after a shift or at the end of a swing compared with the beginning, you’d be amazed at the results. It’s exhausting and physically demanding work. If you don’t adequately replace fluids and electrolytes, you’ll soon find out how that affects your performance and recovery. You’ll struggle to back up that afternoon or the next day,” he said, adding that diet and alcohol consumption are also a critical part of the picture.
It was this experience and knowledge that saw Rhodes called upon by fellow elite athletes Tim Bird, Brad Rodgers and Owen Hughes (also an Olympian) from Paramount Safety to help develop a hydration and health offering for the industrial athlete. Education and pre-emptively tackling dehydration and heat stress have become a large part of their solution.
“50% of the industry come to work in a mildly dehydrated state. Yet it doesn’t need to be that way,” Rhodes said. “Humans only realise things aren’t working when we are sick or fatigued and only then do we think ‘how can we make it better?’ It’s about the right fuel for the body at the right time. It’s not just water. It’s all your electrolytes, your magnesium, branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), and B and C group vitamins – all the minerals that keep the body fuelled.
“Diet is also critical. Before, after and during training we need the right fuel. You’ve got a 10 minute window straight after to get the electrolytes and then a 60 minute window to get the right food. Good clean food.”
Speaking of alcohol, Rhodes said he avoided it altogether when he was training because of the negative impact it had on his performance.
“When you haven’t got the right balance you are tired, you’re sluggish, you’re fatigued.”
Rhodes added that electrolytes are not a silver bullet.
“Our bodies are made up of over 60% water, so water is the most important source of hydration. However, when we lose more fluid than we replace and don’t eat at the right times, electrolytes do have a major role to play with keeping us hydrated. It’s about knowledge and training. About understanding how they fit within a greater hydration and heat stress management plan.”
The key to implementing a strong heat stress management programme on site is education. Once workers understand the importance of hydration, and when to hydrate (which is not only when you feel thirsty), an OHS heat stress management program and disciplined hydration naturally becomes inherent in the workplace culture.
To assist with educating staff about the importance of hydrating in the workplace, THORZT have developed the Industrial Athlete Program, it aims to achieve the following outcomes:
- Alert workers to the dangers of under hydrating
- Audit current hydration practices in the workplace
- Identify hydration challenges unique to each workplace
- Present practical methods of integrating programmed drinking into the daily routine
If your workplace is interested in the Industrial Athlete Program, please contact:
Australia: 1800 846 798
New Zealand: 0800 846 798 or
Contact Us to register your interest.