Sunday, 8th December 2019
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Heat chamber training

by Paul Hayward
Friday 15th April 2016
After 5 minutes of looking at the updates and pictures of Marathon des Sables, you cannot help but be caught up in what for many is the ‘dream race’. While a number of us dream, some dare and while we are eagerly watching David Hellard’s progress in his attempt to be first British athlete, we caught up with Mr Paul Hough, Lead Sport/Exercise Scientist (BASES accredited), at St Mary’s University that helped David (here), and other athletes, make it to the start line. 
PH: Please provide us with a background of how St Mary’s ‘Endurance Performance and Coaching Centre’ (‘EPACC’) came into existence, what the aim of the Centre is and what facilities St Mary’s has to help provide this?
Paul : The St Mary’s EPACC, established in partnership with the Virgin London Marathon, provides an endurance running programme and environment that is known internationally as one of the best training setups in the world. The aim of the centre is to provide an endurance performance environment that supports challenges and develops elite runners. The EPACC is led by two respected coaches, Craig Winrow and Mick Woods, and has produced a number of world class endurance runners. Alumni include Mo Farah, Andrew Osagi and Charlie Perdue. 
The Sports Performance Services at St Mary’s are overseen by me. The service is available to professional athletes as well as paying members of the public. We offer physiological testing to a range of athletes from professional to recreational standard. The majority of the athletes who we work with compete in endurance sports (running, cycling and rowing). However, we also work with athletes involved in sports such as Formula One and tennis.  
PH: Please tell us a little about yourself, your experience with athletes and what events / challenges you do in your spare time? Also please tell us some of your favourite moments with some of these athletes? 
Paul: I am the Lead Sport/Exercise Scientist (BASES accredited) at St Mary’s University. In this role I provide sport and exercise science support to a range of clients from elite athletes to fitness enthusiasts. I also work with external organisations such as The Great Britain Rowing Team and Team Wiggins (cycling). Alongside this role I have an academic role as a lecturer in health and exercise science. 
I find it interesting how quickly you get used to elite standards. I am no longer amazed to see a VO2 max of 75 ml/kg/min! In my spare time I enjoy playing and watching football. I am a Coventry City fan and I will be going to Euro 2016 to watch England. 
PH: In relation to the environmental chamber (heat chamber), please talk us through what the chamber is, what it can do (for those of us that do not know) and what benefits it can offer an athlete taking on Marathon des Sables? 

Hellard chamber 2

Paul: Our environmental chamber is an isolated section of our lab where we are able to regulate the atmospheric temperature/humidity and simulate altitude up to 2000m. This allows athletes to perform training sessions in specific environmental conditions in order to prepare for an event/competition at altitude, in the heat, or a combination of these. Runners preparing for MDS can train in hot conditions to achieve a number of positive physiological adaptations (see below). This is known as heat acclimation training (HAT). 
PH: Please also give us an idea of an athlete can hope to achieve over the course of these sessions?  What range of sessions do you offer? 
Paul: HAT involves performing endurance exercise (running, cycling etc.) for extended periods (45-60 minutes) at exercise intensities between 50-70% VO2max. Typically, the positive adaptations (see below) of HAT occur within the first 4-6 days. However, the rate at which the adaptations occur varies between individuals – for example, the adaptations occur faster in trained athletes.
Heart rate (15-25%) and autonomic nervous system habituation which redirects blood flow to the skin and muscles. 
Thermal comfort
Reduced perception of effort 
Earlier onset and increased sweat rate 
Conservation of sodium chloride (salt) 
PH: When you first met David, please can you tell us what sort of shape he was in compared to other athletes you have met taking on MDS and what sort of programme he needed and why?
Paul: David was one of the most well prepared MDS competitors physically and mentally who came through the lab this year. David followed my pacing advice diligently which enabled us to compare his physiological responses between sessions. Occasionally athletes push themselves too hard at the start of a heat acclimation session in an attempt to increase their core temperature quickly. This is misguided as it usually compromises the average intensity of the session i.e. they have to slow down due to the heat stress that they are not accustomed to. 

Hellard chamber

PH: How has David performed over the course of the programme and what are your thoughts now compared to when you first met him? How has David reacted and what learning points should he take away from this?
Paul: David’s thermal sensation scores lowered over the course of the sessions, which means for the same intensity (run speed) he felt cooler/more comfortable. His rating of perceived exertion (RPE) also reduced, meaning he did not find the session as physically demanding. These are both positive psychological outcomes which were likely due to an improved thermoregulatory response i.e. the ability to lose heat whilst running.
PH: If you are contemplating signing up for MDS next year, what four things would you advise a person to do before paying the entry fee and committing to it? 
1. Make sure you have time to train from January onwards. 
2. Factor in other costs such as equipment, training sessions and time off work! 
3. Speak to someone who has done it. Insider knowledge is very useful! 
4. Make sure you address any on-going injuries. See a good sports therapist.  

All photos by Sarah McKenna-Ayres
More information on St Mary’s and the services they offer athletes can be found here: http://www.stmarys.ac.uk/sport-and-health-services/sports-performance-services/environmental-testing.htm 
Paul can be found on Twitter at: @the_hough
Finally for all your Marathon des Sables needs check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MarathonDesSables/?fref=ts 


About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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