Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 12:38 UK

DIY Olympians told to 'ease off'

Cyclist Nicole Cooke winning gold at Beijing
Trying to keep up with Nicole Cooke's performance is not a good idea

One of the aims of the Olympics is to raise interest in taking part in sports - but it seems some people are pushing themselves a little too hard.

A gadget helpline has been receiving calls from people wanting to know how to set their cycling and rowing machines to keep up with Olympians.

One man from Runcorn even admitted he had broken his rowing machine trying to keep up with Team GB.

Sports scientists said people should be aware of their personal limits.

There has to be a degree of realism and common sense
John Brewer, Lucozade Sports Science Academy

Ben Titchmarsh, of the Gadget Helpline, says their role is to help people when devices such as phones or iPods fail - and that they do not cater for faulty exercise equipment.

But since the start of the Olympics, they have had around 50 calls from people wanting to keep up with the elite athletes they are watching on TV.

He said: "One woman said she really wanted to set her rowing machine so she could do the same number of strokes per minute as the Olympic athletes.

"She was obviously sitting in front of her TV and entering into the spirit of it all."

He added: "Another caller wanted to adjust his exercise bike so he was cycling at the same number of miles per hour as the Olympians.

"And even though the track and field events hadn't yet started, people were also asking about settings for their jogging machines.

"With rowing and cycling machines, if you can't keep up you'll just go slowly. But with jogging machines, if you set them to the pinnacle of what it's capable of doing and you can't keep up, it could be dangerous."


John Brewer, performance director at the Lucozade Sport Science Academy in Slough, said it was great that people were being inspired by the Games.

"One of the reasons for London bidding for the 2012 Olympics is that we know events like the Olympics are aspirational and they make people want to take part.

"But there has to be a degree of realism and common sense about people's ambitions.

"They have to be aware that the athletes they see on TV have a genetic endowment that means they can perform at the highest level and they have spent years dedicating themselves to improving their personal performance."

He added: "For example runners in the women's marathon on Sunday would reach speeds of 12-13mph.

"That's a phenomenal speed, and most people won't be able to keep up with it for more than a few seconds, let alone two hours."

Sarah Hardman, a physiologist from the English Institute of Sport who has worked with Team GB's rowing squad added: "It's great that people are being inspired by the Games and the performances taking place across different sports, but each individual needs to know their limits.

"Olympic athletes have been in full time training for years and progressively work towards the standards they achieve.

"To avoid injuring yourself by overstretching, setting smaller targets for performance improvements in your fitness regime would be the best start in improving your exercise rates, whether that's on the rowing machine, bike or on the treadmill."

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