The University of Brighton’s Environmental Extremes Lab (EEL) have been commissioned by the English Institute of Sport (EIS) to produce a resource pack that will contribute to developing the EIS’ heat optimisation strategy leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. On Thursday 11th January, we brought together the minds of twenty-one of the EEL team (twenty-two if you include Carl James on Skype) to scope out the challenges and potential strategies that can be captured in the resource pack. The pack will be for practitioners, other SSM staff and coaches working with athletes from a variety of sports / events to help them best prepare for the Tokyo environment.
A huge congratulations to Josie Adams, who is an ambassador for the charity Paramonte that we work very closely with, and had a spectacular performance in the inaugural MARATHON DES SABLES (MDS) PERU ultra between the 26th November and 6th December 2017. Josie was first female Brit home, finishing 6th from the females (overall position 49th from 222 finishers).
The MDS replicates the original race: approximately 250 km divided into 6 stages, completed at free pace in self-sufficiency conditions in a desert environment and with the support of an organising team. The event took place in the South American Ica desert, 300 km south of Lima, which is one of the world’s driest regions, with huge dunes and sandy plateaux between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes cordillera.
Prior to Josie leaving, she was exercising in our environmental chamber in the conditions to be expected in the race and discussing with members of the Environmental Extremes Lab about some last minute thoughts for preparation. Josie was filmed in the lead up to the race (including while at the University of Brighton) and during the race and so we are looking forward to seeing the video footage when it is complete.
Josie is already planning her next ultra – The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica – in February 2018. We will again be supporting her as she prepares for the race, but our students will also benefit from a Q&A session with her in the Spring of next year.
Well done Josie!
It is with great pleasure that I can announce Ash Willmott successfully defended his PhD thesis on Friday 27th October 2017 entitled, ‘Optimising heat acclimation state and refining strategies for the acquisition of heat adaptations’. It has been a very emotional “journey” for Ash with many challenges that he has had to overcome, not least within his family. Therefore, seeing Ash perform as well as he did was immensely rewarding and Ash should be very proud of what he has accomplished. His external examiners [Dr Doug Thake (Coventry University) and Dr Jo Costello (University of Portsmouth)] were very impressed with his thesis, the volume of work and how prepared he was for the viva and as such, he has only very minor amendments to make.
Ash was supervised by Drs Neil Maxwell, Mark Hayes and Jeanne Dekerle and each of them were pivotal in his success. Alongside his supervisors, all the members of the Environmental Extremes Lab have been a wonderful support to him throughout it all and should receive recognition too. Ash’s PhD adds to a good number that have gone before him associated with evaluating heat alleviating strategies and is truly giving us an international reputation in the field.
Well done Ash!
Supervisors, Mark Hayes and Neil Maxwell, congratulating Ash for having submitted his PhD thesis (left) and then Ash taking a much-earned break post PhD viva in Seoul ahead of the Kobe ICEE Conference (right).
Dr. Neil Maxwell and Dr Oli Gibson (now Brunel University) were featured on the front page of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) autumn issue of the Sport and Exercise Scientist magazine for having contributed. Led by Dr Jo Corbett of Portsmouth University and working in a team with Professor Neil Walsh (Bangor University) and Dr Caroline Sunderland (Nottingham Trent University), EEL’s Dr Oli Gibson and Dr Neil Maxwell met the team at the University of Portsmouth to work on the expert statement.
Building on the success of last year, the SESCU team worked with 10 contenders in the Marathon des Sables, prior to their journey to Morocco. Endurance runners from all over the UK and as far as Switzerland have sought out SESCU’s expertise and facilities to help them prepare for the race.
The Marathon des Sables, is an annual 6 day ultramarathon in which competitors travel 251km in the desert heat. Continue reading
EEL’s Ash Willmott and three MSc students (Hannah, Luke and Zander) assisted ultra-marathon runners Nick and Andy as they prepared for a 220km race in Cambodia.
“The support provided by each of Hannah, Luke and Zander was excellent in all regards, and proved extremely helpful to both me and Andy in completing the ultra marathon we had entered in Cambodia. The experience we gained around how our bodies would respond to stress in the hot and humid environment, coupled with the physiological knowledge that was shared by the students to help us understand how and why these reactions occurred better equipped us to deal with them during the event and improved our performance. All of the students were professional, friendly and demonstrated a good understanding of the subject matter, which they communicated very clearly – enabling us to maximise the value from the learning experience. I would have no hesitation in using the facilities at Brighton University and support provided by the team in future similar endeavours.” Nick
“I have known Ash now for around 2 years, having first met him while training to run the 2015 Marathon des Sables. More recently, Ash has helped a friend and I prepare for a similar 6-day 220km stage race in Cambodia. The fact that I successfully completed both of these events was, in no small part, helped by the heat acclimatisation and preparation that Ash and his team provided. In particular, the time I spend with Ash helped me better understand the way my body would respond to stress in both hot and humid climates, allowing me to develop appropriate mechanisms to deal with the effects of running in such environments.
Ash has considerable knowledge of his field, together with an ability to impart this knowledge to others through an effective communication style and a genuine desire to help others learn. He takes the time to explain things, not just from a scientific perspective but also from a practical perspective, relating the theory to how things feel and happen in practice. He also has a selfless desire to help others succeed – both in terms of clients who he is helping with acclimatisation and students who he is supervising. Together, these traits mean it is an absolute pleasure to work with Ash and I would, without hesitation, recommend him for any future role and look forward to working with him again in preparation for other events in the future.” Nick
Gareth Turner was awarded his PhD subject to minor corrections on Thursday 8 December. His PhD thesis, entitled “Hypoxic exposure to optimise altitude training adaptations in elite endurance athletes” was examined by Dr Charlie Pedlar (external examiner, via Skype) and Professor Jo Doust (Internal Examiner). Dr Neil Maxwell (supervisor) sat in on the viva and he said “there is no question the examiners were thorough, but they complemented Gareth on the work he had done, not least as he effectively served two masters in the university and the English Institute of Sport (EIS).” This was a particularly important PhD for the School, being part funded (£40k) by the EIS and strengthened the relationship between the University of Brighton and the EIS. Both examiners encouraged Gareth not to let the data and research sit just within a thesis, as there was valuable information and outcomes that could benefit athletes in the future. Congratulations should also go to the other supervisors (Dr Alan Richardson and Dr Jamie Pringle) for all the support they have given Gareth over the years and of course the extended team at the English Institute of Sport and British Athletics (not least Dr Steve Ingham, Dr Barry Fudge and Dr Emma Ross). Gareth currently works fulltime as a physiologist for the EIS, contracted to British Rowing.
Gareth Turner (left) with co-PhD graduates Jess Mee and Ben Duncan
Congratulations to Dr Jess Mee and Dr Oli Gibson (former Technical Instructors and PhD Students of SaSM and allied to SESAME) for separately being winners of the American Journal of Physiology–Regulatory, Integrated, and Comparative Physiology Poster Awards at the 6th International Conference on the Physiology and Pharmacology of Temperature Regulation, Slovenia. Congratulations should also be extended to Ash Willmott (Sport and Exercise Science Support Officer and PhD student) since he led the study and poster that Oli presented, but could not attend due to lab testing commitments. Both presenters won $265 to offset the cost of their meeting registration and have been strongly encouraged to submit the presented work to the journal that sponsored the awards.
Congratulations to Carl James and Rebecca Relf for winning the 2016 School of Sport and Service Management prizes for the following categories, respectively; Research Student award for best piece of work and Best Masters Student piece of work. The awards were given for Carl’s 4th PhD study: “Short term heat acclimation improves the determinants of endurance per-formance and 5,000 m running performance in the heat” and Rebecca’s piece entitled “Females exposed to 24 hours of sleep deprivation do not experience greater physiological strain, but do perceive heat illness symptoms more severely, during exercise-heat stress”.
Multi-stage, ultra-endurance events within extreme environmental conditions are becoming increasingly popular with endurance athletes. Deemed the “toughest foot race on earth” the Marathon des Sables (MdS), is a ~250 km multi-day race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco, which attracts around 1000 competitors annually from around the world. During the MdS race, competitors are self-dependent, carrying their own backpacks which weigh around 5-10 kg in extreme levels of heat stress (~40°C). The route covers sand dunes, dry river beds and, stony and rocky surfaces, and is relentless in terms of physical and mental fatigue.
The athletes face numerous physiological challenges including; cumulative fatigue, restricted water and food availability, sleep deprivation, high solar heat loads with limited shade and, prolonged metabolic heat production. Such consequences exacerbate physiological strain, and increase the likelihood of dehydration, skin tissue injuries and risk of exertional heat-related illnesses (EHRI). These are obviously detrimental to health, which can lead to race-withdrawal and serious health consequences. It is therefore, imperative that athletes prepare effectively through heat acclimation (HA), which includes repeated, prolonged exercise exposures to high temperatures (>30°C) and moderate-high humidity (>40%). Short-term HA (STHA) can induce nearly up to 75% of physiological adaptations which includes a reduction in heart rate and core temperature, in addition to lowered perceived exertion, along with improved thermal comfort, sensation and perceived fatigue.
As part the Sport and Exercise Science Consultancy Unit (SESCU)’s Environmental Extremes Support services, this year Ash Willmott led a team to support 10 MdS athletes prepare for the race, this included Dr Mark Hayes and several post graduate research students including Kirsty Waldock, Rebecca Relf and Emily Watkins. The athletes, mainly from the surrounding south east region, visited the laboratories 4-6 times for heat acclimation sessions, which included running and cycling in 45°C in the lead up to their departure for Morocco. The methods prescribed and measures taken during the heat acclimation were all research informed from many of the sport science research studies completed here at the University of Brighton, and applied successfully for the MdS athletes.
Over the course of the heat acclimation we saw many adaptations in the typical markers of repeated exercise-heat stress as well as novel findings including improved perceptual measures and increased sweat output over a shorter time frame as compared to those previously seen. Out of the 10 athletes we supported, 9 completed the race safely and successfully, with some even finishing in the top 10% of the field. Some of the feedback from the athletes included, the improvement in mental toughness and confidence gained through training in their teams in the extreme heat of our chamber, while others felt that learning about their heat rate, sweat rate and hydration guidelines really helped them during the race and how to pace themselves during the peak temperatures.
The work competed by Ash and the team has now been written up and published in the Journal of Sport Sciences.
Rosa has also put a video together for the MdS support we offer:
If you would like to find out any more information on the MdS, or other services within SESCU please contact SESconsultancy@brighton.ac.uk