Hell in a Heat Chamber
I recently started being a participant in another Sports and Exercise Study at the University. The study is investigating the effects of Tyrosine supplement and cognitive fatigue on exhaustive exercise in a warm environment and involves some fairly hardcore testing.
First up was the usual ramp test on a cycle ergometer. After 3 minutes warm up with no resistance the resistance gradually increases at a rate of 1W every 2 seconds and you have to keep going until you can go no more. This ‘Ramp Test’ as it is known is a fairly standard procedure that I have done a few times now for previous studies. The results from this are then used to determine an appropriate intensity for subsequent visits for the rest of the test.
I’ve now attended a familiarisation session and the first of the tests and have to say that they are pretty tough. To start with there are several health and safety issues associated with exercising in a heat chamber so several precautions that have to be taken. The first and most intrusive of these is that fact that I have to insert a rectal thermometer so that my core temperature can be monitored throughout the test. Along with this several skin temperature probes are also stuck to my body. One on my chest, one on my thigh, one on my calf and one on my tricep. All of these probes have wires coming from them that are connected to a data logger.
So, after an overnight fast and no breakfast I have to drink 500ml of water a couple of hours before the test, then when I arrive at the department I have all of these probes inserted and attached and spend the next few hours permanently attached to a data logger. I also have to provide a urine sample and weigh myself to give them a nude weight. Next I’m stabbed with a needle so that they can extract some blood. I’m then given a fruit flavoured drink which could be the Tyrosine or could just be a placebo. This is followed by the cognitive test which I think is designed to bring about cognitive exhaustion. I won’t explain exactly what it is, but it involves staring at a screen for 90 minutes doing what can only be described as the most boring task known to man. After a while staying focussed and awake becomes a real struggle.
Once that is done its time for the hard work. After I’m stabbed again and more blood is taken I move, complete with my data logger and the thermometer up my bum into the heat chamber which is set to 30ºC and 60% relative humidity. I climb onto a bike in the heat chamber from hell and have to ride until I drop. The intensity isn’t too great so I’ve been lasting somewhere around 75 minutes on the bike, but it’s a nasty intensity to be working at. It feels quite hard to start with, so when I first start I think I’m not going to last very long. This carries on for what seems like ever. It always feels as though I’m about to run out of steam within a few minutes but somehow I just keep going and going. Every 15 minutes I’m given another little drink and every so often I have to tell them how I’m feeling on a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale and on a temperature scale. Also, every 30 minutes I have to breathe into some gas analysis equipment which just makes the going a little tougher for a minute or so.
Eventually when I literally can’t go anymore and my legs just won’t turn I collapse on the bike and I’m allowed out of the heat chamber. I’m then stabbed again so that a third sample of blood can be taken and I have to sit there for 15 minutes whilst they monitor my temperature before I’m finally allowed to go – that is after I have provided them with another urine sample, another nude weight and I have removed all of the various probes.