Exercising in 25°C is very different from exercising in 50°C. So unless you live in a very hot climate, heat acclimatisation is an absolutely fundamental part of training for the MDS or in fact any other desert endurance event.
After reading Dr. Mike Stroud’s “Survival Of The Fittest: The Anatomy of Peak Physical Performance”, a few key facts that jumped out about how the human body acclimatises to heat. (Mike Stroud is a pretty amazing character; with Ranulph Fiennes he made the first unsupported crossing of the Antarctic continent, he’s an expert in human endurance and also a previous MDS runner.)
Based on reading, my main takeaways were:
- The human body can acclimatise in as little as 10 days. By spending an hour per day for 10 days in high heat, capacity to sweat is nearly doubled and sweat is more diluted, contains less sodium.
- Excess body fat is a liability because the specific heat of fat is greater than muscles. Further the insulatory property of fat retards the conduction of heat to the periphery. Finally the fat person has a smaller body surface area to mass ratio for the evaporation of sweat compared to a smaller person.
With this in mind, I decided that there a few things I need to do to make sure I’m in good shape for the MDS.
- Bikram yoga. I got up at 04:30 on Friday to attend my first Bikram yoga class at Northside at Lane Cove. The class is 90 minutes long and involves stretching and strengthening exercises at a temperature of about 40°. It was an excellent workout and great heat training. I’ve signed up for a one month membership and am planning to go before or after work at least 4 times per week. It’s actually on the route I run to work so provided I’m not travelling interstate; I should be able to fit it in fairly easily with my schedule.
- Sauna. We have a sauna in our building, for the last 10 days before I leave, I plan to have a sauna for approx. 60 minutes each day.
- Lose some body fat. Due to the detrimental effect it has on keeping cool, I need to shed a few kilos of fat. I’ve been telling myself that keeping some fat on my stomach will be a useful reserve in the desert but I think the truth is that I enjoy pizza and am looking for excuses to keep eating it. This next month I need to a bit more disciplined with diet.