An acclimatisation room is an excellent option that will enable you to artificially simulate the hot and humid conditions of Tokyo during your preparations.

There are different methods of acclimatising at home, without the need to spend huge amounts of money on high-tech, specialist equipment.

Hear from two experts on the effects of heat on the human body: Professor Sébastien Racinais and Dr Yannis Pitsiladis, who are supporting you ahead of Tokyo.


There are different methods of acclimatising at home, without the need to spend huge amounts of money on high-tech, specialist equipment.

 

Dr Yannis Pitsiladis

Why acclimatise?

Tokyo 2020 will take place in hot and humid environmental conditions, which can not only harm your endurance performance but also increase the possibility of you suffering from heat illnesses. This is why acclimatisation is so important – it allows your body to prepare for competition in these conditions through the process of heat adaptation.

Professor Sébastien Racinais is Chair of the IOC Adverse Weather Impact Expert Working Group. Since August 2018, Sébastien and his team have been working on ways to help you and your entourage at Tokyo and, through years of study and research, he knows that heat adaptation could be the key to your success.

“How you prepare in the build-up to the Games could be the difference between you reaching the podium and missing out. Preparation is absolutely vital, and acclimatisation is the first, most important countermeasure you can take now. It should be your number one priority,” says Sébastien.

What is an acclimatisation room?

Particularly for those of you living in cold countries or unable to attend a training camp in an environment with similar heat and humidity to Tokyo, an acclimatisation room is an excellent option that will allow you to artificially simulate the heat and humidity of Tokyo during your physical training.

The simulation of hot ambient conditions can be achieved through purpose-built environmental chambers or improvised low-tech rooms. If you don’t have access to a chamber, you can use heaters and boiling water to create a simple yet equally effective acclimatisation room.

Although less specific than training in the heat, passive heat adaptation is also a possibility. This includes sitting in a sauna or hot water immersion after training. Simply wearing extra clothing during training increases the heat stress on your body, too.

Will it cost a lot of money?

There are different methods of acclimatising at home, without the need to spend huge amounts of money on high-tech, specialist equipment, as Dr Yannis Pitsiladis, a member of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission Adverse Weather Impact Expert Working Group, explains.

Yannis has a longstanding interest in running within African tribes, notably, he says, “in countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, where often the closest thing you get to technology is a stopwatch”.

“High-tech environmental chambers are great, but you don’t need a chamber costing half a million dollars to prepare. When I worked with elite runners in Africa, we went into one room of a house and put in pots of boiling water, heaters, gadgets to measure the temperature and a treadmill. You don’t need specialist equipment to prepare.”

Are there any proven techniques?

Yannis was invited to Ethiopia to help athletes acclimatise to the heat in the lead-up to the 2007 World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Japan, and Beijing 2008, and learned to improvise. He found that the athletes he was working with didn’t enjoy the solitude of staying in hotel rooms before competition and would stay with their families for as long as possible. This forced him to think outside the box by converting a room in each athlete’s home into a heat chamber.

“All we needed was a heater and a kettle, and the athlete would gradually build up time and distance running in that heat over a period of weeks. The result? Our athletes, Kenenisa Bekele and Sileshi Sihine, won gold and silver in the 10,000m in both Osaka and Beijing.”

In other words, it’s about finding the winning formula for you. You don’t need to spend lots of money to train in hot and humid conditions and acclimatise your body to the heat, and the techniques you use can be very simple.

How long does it take to acclimatise?

The human body has an excellent capacity to adapt to the heat, and a substantial improvement in thermoregulatory responses and performance is evident after 7 to 14 days.

However, it is best to start preparing for competition long in advance. This will allow you to know what works for you as an individual – from the type of training needed to the number of days required. “With six months to go before the event, you want to have started to prepare. When you go to Tokyo, nothing should be new. You should be used to the conditions already. If you haven’t done this yet, don’t get stressed – you still have time! But you need to start thinking about it now,” says Yannis.

Sébastien supports this expert view, explaining: “Your chances of competing for a medal really do rest on your preparations. It is long before Tokyo 2020 begins that your most important work will take place.”

 

You don’t need to spend lots of money to train in hot and humid conditions and acclimatise your body to the heat, and the techniques you use can be very simple.

Do you want more advice and strategies for beating the heat in Tokyo?