Confessions of a lab rat


It's now less than two weeks until the ETU European Sprint Championships in Alanya, Turkey. I'm now beginning to undergo the final stages of my preparation. The main factor this close to race day isn't my fitness, which I'm really happy with, but the issue of racing in high ambient temperatures which I'm due to experience (>25°C & 55% RH). I must admit I do really enjoy racing in the heat but that's in the UK and we all know that it doesn't really get that hot!!

Having worked at University for some time now I have been able to work alongside Dr Andrew Garrett administrating heat acclimation to other athletes, but this time the boot is on the other foot! I'm not sure if knowing what's going to happen to me is a good thing or not! From previous experience just being in the chamber for 90 minutes in the heat and humidity watching someone exercise was pretty tiring stuff so actually doing it for myself is really going to be a challenge. The heat acclimation protocol will involve me cycling for around 20 minutes in 40°C and 60% RH for a total of 5 days. The plan of this acclimation protocol is to get my core temperature up to 38.5°C as quickly as possible. At this point I will stop exercising, and stay in the chamber for a total of 90 minutes. Just to make it even tougher, I will not be allowed to consume any fluids during these sessions.

Looking back on these past 5-days I'm not going to lie, it's been tough both physically and mentally. I remember as soon as I walked into the environmental chamber on day-1 the heat hit me hard and before I even started to exercise I was beginning to sweat. I then hopped onto the exercise bike and started to exercise. The protocol we used meant that as the time progressed the resistance on the pedals would get progressively harder until my core temperature rose to 38.5°C. On the first day it took ~12 minutes to achieve the cut off value. By the third day it was taking me ~20 minutes for my core temperature to rise. Perceptually I was also noticing changes. Now I was walking into the chamber thinking actually the heat isn't that bad and a sign that I was already beginning to adapt to the conditions. By the fifth and final day using the same exercise protocol the time required for me to reach the cut of value had rose dramatically to ~25 minutes almost double what it took in the first trial. Also it was taking me longer to start sweating after starting to exercise and the heat was no longer hitting me like a tonne of bricks.

Knowing how well other athletes have benefited, the science behind heat acclimation and the physiological and perceptual changes I have observed on myself in these past 5-days I'm confident that the sweat (and there's been a lot of it) and time spent with the Sport, Health and Exercise Science Team will let me push the pace from the start to finish and do myself and GB proud.

I must say a HUGE THANK YOU to all my sponsors; The University of Hull, Meridian and Coconoil for their continued support.