sports gazette

St Mary's state-of-the-art altitude chamber attracting world class athletes

Published: 9 Mar 2017

St Mary's University have completed renovations on a chamber that emulates extreme conditions, to help athletes reach their peak performance.

Imagine running on a treadmill in room temperature conditions, and then raising the altitude to 3000m and the temperature to 50 degrees. 

This is exactly what the St Mary's environmental altitude chamber is able to replicate, allowing athletes to perform training sessions in specific environmental conditions. 

Talent ranging from high-profile tennis figures, to athletes training for the Marathon des Sables, have utilised the simulator as a way of pushing their bodies to its fullest limits.

Professor John Brewer, a sport science expert, and the head of the School of Sport, Health and Applied Science at St Mary's, believes the renovations have made the facility one of the world's best.

He said: "Over the last couple of months we have had the builders in, we've had the technicians in, and we have now created what we believe to be a world-leading environmental chamber that enables us to re-create conditions that are anything from the Amazon jungle right through to the base camp of Everest."

Professor Brewer revealed that the facility is already attracting world-class talent looking to acclimatise to different conditions, including two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, and Formula One driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who recently replaced Jenson Button at McLaren.

"They can come in and prepare, perhaps for tournaments at altitude or in the heat by experiencing those same conditions at Strawberry Hill," he said.

The chamber enables us to re-create conditions that are anything from the Amazon jungle right through to the base camp of Everest.

The chamber has three general functions: research studies, which allow students to observe the impact specific environmental conditions have on human performance; acclimatisation, where athletes come in to experience those changing conditions over a prolonged period of time; and performance evaluation, observing how athletes bodies react to the conditions, so that an overall strategy can then be implemented.

"Clearly changing the temperature and humidity, presents a very different challenge to one where you change the altitude.

"Of course you can bring them both together and combine the two, so you could try and create hot and humid conditions at high altitude, we do have the ability to do that," Professor Brewer said.


Craig Winrow, a former 800m Olympic finalist, who now coaches top-end athletes, utilises the facility to condition athletes for the effects of training at high altitude.

He said: "For me, it's about spotting those athletes that have the potential to be international athletes, and then starting to introduce them to altitude and the effects it can have on them.

"You can use it in terms of getting your athletes to go in there and run on the treadmill and actually run at the height of Kenya, in terms of preparing to go to altitude and then also continue it when you get back to prolong the effect."


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