How Cleethorpes beach has helped local sports stars reach their goals
What has unbeaten boxer Kevin Hooper, top veteran athlete Tony Whiteman and the Grimsby Town team got in common? They have all turned to Cleethorpes' biggest and best natural resource to help them achieve their aims – the beach. Here, Sports Editor TREVOR GREEN takes a look at how the area's sports stars are harnessing the power of the sand...
GRIMSBY professional boxer Kevin Hooper, 28, is unbeaten in 13 fights. He fits his tough training schedule around his job as a security guard. Beach training is a regular and important part of Hooper's routine
"WHEN you're sprinting on the beach there's tough resistance from the soft sand," said Hooper.
"It builds up your legs and makes them a lot stronger.
"It really puts you through it and is hard work.
"It gets your lungs going – the sprinting technique is harder on the sand; it gets you breathing faster and the blood going around the muscles that bit quicker.
"It's also a bit colder down at the seafront, so it is character-building in that sense.
"Beach sprints are something I do regularly during the build-up to a fight.
"I only knock it off about two weeks before the fight, when I cut it down a bit and go back to the track, because the resistance wears your legs a bit.
"In the build-up to my last fight I was training two to three times a day. In the morning, I was on the pads and bags. In the afternoon, I was doing the sprints – or doing more work with Sean Wood at the gym, and sparring when that's arranged.
"Then I have my tea and rest for a bit, before going out for a late-night run.
"Aside from running, I also work on the rowing machine or do an hour on the exercise bike or cross-trainer. Nearer the fight, and as it gets a bit colder, I'll be doing this exercise indoors or at home rather than going out late at night in the cold.
"At the start of camp I was about 11-stone 4lb, so it was about a stone-and-a-half I needed to shift in total over eight or nine weeks of training".
CLEETHORPES-based athlete Tony Whiteman this year became the first man over 40 to run a sub-four minute mile outdoors. Whiteman went to two Olympic Games (Atlanta and Sydney) at his peak, as a 1,500m runner. As well as rewriting the veteran record books, he is also currently a personal trainer in the town
WHITEMAN coaches a variety of people from different sporting backgrounds.
In the past, he has put Grimsby Town footballers, runners, triathletes and Grimsby Hockey Club players through their paces on the beach.
One of the groups he currently coaches on the sand includes Paul Thompson, one of the area's leading ultra distance endurance athletes, and his son Finley, an up-and-coming triathlete and runner.
Whiteman said: "We do 'back-to-backs' on the beach, 90-100m hard in 15 seconds, a 15-second recovery, then it's 15 seconds hard back again.
"After a set of them we do a 5k tempo run on the prom.
"For triathletes, the effect of the hard running on the sand mimics the feeling they have in their legs at transition points, when they have to get straight into their running after coming off the bike.
"It is an unstable surface and the muscles have to work harder to achieve the same effect. After training on the sand, running on the roads or grass seems comparatively easy.
"Our beach is really well looked after and it has a good surface.
"You have to push really hard to get anywhere as the surface gives way as you try to run.
"You have to fight against the terrain, but you feel fleet of foot and lighter when you go back to your regular surface.
"It also gets the heart and lungs working hard.
"I did lots of sand dune training in my peak years. The most notable place I did it was at Merthyr Mawr in south Wales on a dune known as the Big Dipper.
"It was made famous as the place where Steve Ovett did a lot of hard training.
"As well as physically, it can help your mental state too.
"If I know I have been to hell and back in training, when it comes to competition, I know I can deal with anything. It gives your confidence a boost".
AS a player, coach and physio at Grimsby Town, Dave Moore has been using Cleethorpes beach for 35 years. The sand really comes into its own in pre-season when players are building up their fitness levels ahead of the forthcoming campaign
"THE sand is great for boosting your aerobic capacity", explained Moore.
"It is very hard work on the softer sand. You do not get any bounce-back from the surface. A lot of your effort is dissipated by the sand.
"We use it in pre-season as it is good cardiovascular work.
"It's also useful for anyone just coming back from injury.
"If you have had a bad ankle or a bad hip, it can be good to train on as it is not as hard on the joints".
Moore, pictured, also stressed the mental benefits of a tough training session on the beach.
"When you tell the players we are going down there to train you can see their jaws drop. They know it will be tough.
"They do not fancy it at first, but when it's over and they come back, they have a smile on their faces. It's the kind of thing you enjoy once it's finished.
"The military often uses beaches for training, and there is a reason for that.
"During my association with Grimsby Town – going back 35 years – we have always trained on the beach at various times, right back to when I was a 16-year-old.
"Lawrie McMenemy took the players on the beach, as did George Kerr, and then they all did.
"It is a great asset to have. All we have to do is exit Blundell Park, go over the Fuller Street Bridge and we are there on the beach.
"There are times when clubs with multi-million pound facilities cannot train outdoors because of the conditions – but we can always use the beach. The year before last when we had the really bad winter, we used it extensively. It was the only place we could train outdoors.
"You just simply cannot beat running on the beach on a crisp, fresh day".