Diwali celebrations: Worth the Wait

Every year November is a busy month for VIS Physiologist, Dr Avish Sharma, spending much of his time in Victoria and New South Wales' alpine regions supporting altitude training camps for our VIS athletics athletes before returning to enjoy in his culture's Diwali celebrations.

This weekend many in the Victorian community will celebrate Diwali, or Deepavali, a spiritual and cultural celebration of light over darkness.

Tens of thousands of people will gather at Diwali festival locations across Melbourne, typically in blazes of colour, to eat, dance and sing.

Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) Physiologist Dr Avish Sharma would like to join them. And he will, just not yet.  

Sharma spends November in Falls Creek and Perisher Valley supporting altitude training camps for our VIS athletics athletes. 

The camps are an integral part of the controlled and highly planned preparation of many VIS athletes.

Last year, for example, altitude camps in Switzerland were a vital ingredient in gold medal success for Australian athletes at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games where Sharma was on hand to share in wins in the marathon by Jess Stenson and the 10 km walk for Jemima Montag. 

This year altitude camps in the USA and Switzerland  played a role in Jemima’s World Athletics Championship silver medal and a top eight result for her VIS race walking teammate Declan Tingay.

“I have known these athletes for a number of years. It was a privilege to be a member of their performance teams,” he says of the experiences.

Falls Creek and Perisher Valley may be better known for their snowfields and sweeping views of the Australian Alps but for Sharma and the athletics performance teams it provides an altitude base that is a part of a long-term strategy to accumulate time at altitude in the lead up to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“For the average person, altitude training probably shouldn’t be the first intervention on the list; there are other elements of training that can be manipulated (such as simply being consistent, intensity, distance etc..) to improve their performance,” said Sharma.

But for elite-athletes “altitude training provides an added advantage where modifications to training volume or intensity may be ‘maxed out’, or simply to create a novel stimulus in an athlete’s program. The lower oxygen availability characteristic of altitude stimulates the body to produce more red blood cells, an adaptation beneficial for performance.

“Then, there is the fact that training itself becomes harder, and we can use this to help our athletes get fitter than training at sea level.”

Sharma’s expertise is highly regarded at the VIS. After completing a PhD specialising in optimising altitude training in elite runners, Sharma uses his understanding of training and physiological adaptations to altitude to provide recommendations for coaches to optimise their prescription.

“This could be as simple as measuring blood lactate values for a specific session, and then adjusting the work-to-rest ratios of the session to help achieve the desired outcome without pushing the athlete too far. 

“Or, given the training stress at altitude is higher than normal, it may be having discussions about the periodisation of training and recovery in the week, to allow the athletes to recover better between hard sessions.”

The value of Sharma’s expertise and hard work was made plain last year when, upon accepting her 2022 VIS Award of Excellence, Montag paid tribute to him in her acceptance speech.  For Sharma though, whilst excellent results are great to share in, the best part for him is “often just interacting with the athletes, coaches and other members of the performance team on a camp, with the knowledge that you are working towards a common goal.”

And when he returns from Falls Creek in late November, he intends to share in something else: Diwali.

“My childhood is filled with memories of lighting lots of candles, extended family get togethers, as well as eating my body weight in sweets,” he says of the festival.

Latest News

Between You & Me: Nick Lum and Finn Luu hero image

Between You & Me: Nick Lum and Finn Luu

Today

From childhood rivals at eight years old to Australian top-ranked table tennis players and best friends. Nick Lum and Finn Luu are dominating the table tennis scene together.

Paris Preview: VIS Olympians to watch hero image

Paris Preview: VIS Olympians to watch

July 17, 2024

10,500 athletes from 206 countries and teams will compete in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Among them will be 82 Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holders bearing Australian green and gold.

Georgia Sheehan | Almost Olympian hero image

Georgia Sheehan | Almost Olympian

July 4, 2024

"I found myself in the club that no athlete wants to join: the circle of ‘almost Olympians’." While this time of year is filled with tears of relief and elation for some, for others, it's utter devastation. VIS diver, Georgia Sheehan reflects on the reality of missing out on the Olympic dream.

Move over brie and baguettes... feeding Australia's Paralympians hero image

Move over brie and baguettes... feeding Australia's Paralympians

July 2, 2024

The Australian Paralympic team is set for success in Paris, accompanied by beloved Aussie treats like Caramello Koalas and Vegemite. VIS dietitian and Paralympics Australia Performance Services Lead, Siobhan Crawshay and her team have meticulously planned every detail to ensure creature comforts are met. It's the extra one percenters that count, after all.

Between You & Me: Rachael Lynch & Stacia Strain hero image

Between You & Me: Rachael Lynch & Stacia Strain

June 28, 2024

From representing Australia together in the Hockeyroos to gallivanting in Europe to mend their mutual heartbreak, Stacia Strain and Rachael Lynch's friendship is as thick as thieves. Hockey brought them together, but friendship became their superglue.

Related news

See all our partners

VIS is proudly supported by