Our neighborhood was created in 1913 to host the Second General Missionary Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The ‘Assembly,’ as it’s locally known, covers about 5.6 square miles (roughly 14.6 square kilometers) in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina; including a 200-acre lake, 16 gardens, a golf course, gym, various meeting, lodging and sports facilities. There were only 13 homes here in 1913, but summer cottages continued to pop up throughout the Assembly over the next few decades. Quite a few of these cottages, such as ours, have remained in their semi-original condition for decades.
Our front door opens onto two rooms: the kitchen and a living area – what we’ve since learned was a 1960s addition to the original 1945-era cottage. Somewhere along the way the first owner’s family probably grew large enough to require extra rooms to accommodate their summer get-aways. This two-room addition followed the sloping landscape, leaving it two steps down from the front door of the original cottage.
Our first carpenter came up with the idea to expand the steps and incorporate a platform of sorts on the right side with a large storage drawer underneath. The antique wine rack we found while living in Ecuador found a home atop the platform, and the big drawer has become the best spot to store dog leashes, extra dog food, and stuff in general.
Although our cottage sat idle for 60 years or more (decoratively speaking), we’ve re-worked these two front rooms three times in the past two years. The first decor was designed around using the cottage as a vacation rental property, but we decided to move in before we went through with that plan. In the second decor we used our own furnishings – minus those things we kept in storage as we went through construction to add one more room onto the back of the house. With construction finished and everything out of storage, almost every room in the house has been re-worked again.
We finished the first kitchen renovation last year, but since then we’ve switched to all black appliances, changed the rug, added a backsplash, upgraded the light fixtures, and most recently, exchanged a small table in the center with a counter-height island and two stools.
The Kitchen (version III):
Once or twice a year there’s a sale at the E.J. Victor showroom in High Point, or sometimes at their factory in Morganton. Even when there’s nothing in the world I need, I love going to these sales. Earlier this year, there were boxes and boxes of chandeliers at the sale in High Point. I brought two of them back home.
It wasn’t an easy job to add overhead lighting. The metal roof had been installed directly onto the ceiling joists leaving no room to run the wiring. Recessing anything into this ceiling was out of the question. A local investor had won the initial bid on this house and was renovating things for several weeks before we convinced her to sell it to us. Her electrician was implementing an altogether different approach to the overhead lighting project before we arrived on the scene.
He didn’t mind re-thinking things at all, and eventually we came up with a more inconspicuous option by adding plugs to the chandeliers and running the wiring on the back side of the ceiling beams. Old houses seem to require out-of-the-box thinking sometimes, and I think this was one of those times.
The chandelier plugs into an outlet above the cabinets on the left by the ceiling beam:
The living area side of the front rooms had been our family room in both of its previous iterations. This was the Living Area after we moved in with our own furnishings:
Now it’s a Dining Room (version III):
We added a gas starter to the wood-burning fireplace last year, but this year we went a step further and opted for artificial logs – less work, no mess.
We’ve accumulated some interesting furnishings over the years, and although we didn’t have room to keep everything when we downsized, I tried to be thoughtful about keeping things that might work. Then the challenge became to use what I had kept!
Several of the more unique accessories we’ve collected over the years have come from Maitland-Smith – a by-product of having owned a home furnishings store. I’d sit at my desk whenever traffic was light and study the methods the artisans use to create these treasures.
One technique is Lost Wax Casting where the artisans create a finely carved wax model surrounded by a special form of lightweight concrete.The mold is filled with molten metal through holes carved into the material, which melts the wax model which then drains away through a small exit hole. When the mold cools, it’s broken open to reveal a finely cast metal object that was once wax. Then the pieces are finished in verdigris, aged brass, dark bronze or another popular finish. Some of my favorite accessories have been created using this method.
I wouldn’t say our front rooms’ decor will remain as-is for the next 60 years, but we’re definitely done for awhile.
There’s lots of ways to gather plants for a landscaping project, and I’ve been willing to try any and all methods to fill the barren land behind my house. In fact, there’s been little time this summer for anything except gathering plants.
The excavation part of our construction project from earlier this year left us with a set of stone steps, and mounds of red clay covered in mulch. I’m familiar with inheriting a fully landscaped yard – even if I might spend the next few years tweaking, moving and fine-tuning what was already there. Reversing the total eradication of all plant life is a horse of a different color altogether.
My goal has been to cover as much ground as possible, literally and figuratively speaking. My ultimate garden would be one that requires very little mulching, no cutting grass or weed-whacking, and includes spots of shade all around. By mid-summer I had finally thought to start a Pinterest board with the names of every plant we’ve added to our garden to help me keep track of things. I’ve registered 116 different species so far, although we’ve rarely added just one plant of any variety.
My favorite method of propagation starts with a visit to the discounted rack of plants at the nearby garden center. There’s something uniquely rewarding about reviving a distressed plant that’s been left to your mercy – not to mention it’s also easier on the wallet. And you never know what variety of plant you might find on the discount rack.
Our savings have become fairly substantial in the process of discount-rack shopping. One day we had finished shopping when the nice lady at the register advised us of an additional 50% off all discount-rack plants. We went shopping again and made off with a total $362 savings.
We’ve accumulated plants by transplanting from near and far as well. When our friend Irene divided the Iris in her garden earlier this spring, my husband brought a bucket full home in his little convertible. It was quite the sight.
Last year a neighbor opened his garden to anyone that was willing to divide and dig day lilies. Next year these same day lilies will be ready to divide and transplant again into the vast unknown of our back yard – where I’ll be quite happy for them to multiply till their heart’s content.
A photo of the front taken on September 9, 2018 after planting the day lilies from our neighbor’s garden.
This photo was taken June 16, 2019 when the lilies were in full bloom.
The next two photos were taken earlier today. Some of the day lilies are still blooming, but the Montauk Daisy steals the show. Last year I cut a stem from the more mature daisy on the right and started a new plant on the left. If anything more than a leaf falls off a plant anywhere, I’ll toss it in water and see if it roots. Some experiments are more successful than others.
My husband found several platters of sedum on the discount rack one day, and we planted them everywhere.
It was a fluke decision to put one of the platters into the St. Francis statue’s arms in the shady side garden, and now there’s sedum starters that have taken hold all around just underneath. In some cases, propagation could take the rest of my life. It’s still fun.
Each time I’ve added a new plant to my Pinterest board, I’ve researched its particulars. It’s been fascinating, and sometimes stunning.
I fell in love with the Evening Primrose and their delicate early-morning blooms, but there was an urgent warning regarding how invasive this plant can become if left to propagate at will. And I didn’t think much about burying the leftover Creeping Jenny from a summer arrangement last year to see what would happen. It’s the best ground cover ever, although we could possibly drown in a sea of Jenny by this time next year.
There’s been a few stomach turning lessons along the way as well, such as the day I discovered ‘dog vomit fungus’ and the ‘stink horn’ mushroom. Both thrive in mulch, both are simply horrible, and you can’t possibly make this stuff up. But there’s also been great pleasure in finding the perfect spot for a tree I’ve never heard of before, or finding plants that would survive where an underground spring keeps the ground surprisingly wet. Pictures do not do our hard work justice, but some day this cottage garden will be the garden of our dreams.
I found Mr. Boggs sitting at the top of the hill in the back garden and snapped his picture – it looks like he’s wearing the Canna Lily in the background as a hat. My experimental wildflower garden is just beyond the Canna Lily and an even more experimental rain garden is just below the ridge. Bentley is at the far right sitting in front of a small white azalea that has just decided to bloom. This is home. And this is where I’ve happily spent most of my summer days.
While most homes have functionally specific rooms, my little cottage suggests it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. For example, the original kitchen is now the master bedroom, the original master bedroom is now a closet, and the room in the middle has been a living room, bedroom, dining room, and now a foyer – all within its original footprint.
You can start from the beginning here, but to quickly recap: we were on the hunt for a cute cottage for downsizing our life; found it, but got outbid by a flipper; convinced her to sell it to us anyway, as-is (remodel in-progress); finished the remodel so we could put it on the vacation rental circuit until we were really ready to downsize; changed (or lost) our minds and moved in; added one more room onto the back of the house, which allowed us to repurpose almost every room (move furniture from front to back and all around). This is the story of the room in the middle.
It was a bedroom when we first saw the house in August 2017. The doorway on the left would have been the front door until a 1970’s addition created a new kitchen and living area, which makes us think this room would have been the location of the home’s original living room.
The room also has a small coat closet and a fireplace. It’s hard to see in the photos, but the crown molding had an unusual design along the bottom – sort of the shape of fish scale shingles. The flipper had already replaced the windows with french doors, which we thought was a grand idea, but she had also removed the crown molding. Our lead carpenter at the time told me he could replace the molding, but make it even better. He did not disappoint.
The photo below shows the outline of the original crown molding. This was how the room looked on our first day after buying the house.
When we furnished the house for the rental market, this was the most logical room for a dining table. We added a closet in the center hallway that would eventually become the entrance to the new addition at the back of the house.
I discovered the German Schmear the same year we bought the cottage, and tried out my own version on the little fireplace in this room. My husband found an arched style ventless fireplace insert on Wayfair, and the carpenter created the curved trim surround. A thermostat causes it to turn on randomly throughout cold winter days giving the room a warm glow.
From the angle of the photo below, you can see the bricks on the left side of the fireplace are shaved flat while the other side is angled. I love these oddball things about old houses where only an owner from long ago would know the background story. We’ve made our own contributions in this area along the way I guess. The wildflowers are from my garden.
Now that we have a covered carport on this side of the house, this room has become the way we most often enter the house. We also linger over coffee here in the mornings, and sometimes we sit here with a glass of wine at the end of the day. As you might imagine, we solve a lot of the world’s problems from right here. 🙂
After weeks of nearly indiscernible baby steps on our cottage construction project we have a finished space. It wasn’t really worldwide breaking news the day they sprayed foam insulation into the walls, when the metal roof and the interior ceiling planks went up, or when paint covered the walls inside and out. But when they broke through the walls and finished the transition from old house to new addition, this adjunct room that seemed to independently protrude from the back of the house was now part of the collective whole, and the end of the project was finally in sight.
The cottage before construction started:
Most every project has at least one memorable moment – something you can’t believe just happened. There were no shocking, pull-your-hair-out surprises in this project. Everything fit. Everything worked the way we wanted.
The contractor’s biggest worry was that the floor of the addition wouldn’t line up evenly with the home’s original floor. He poked a hole through the side of the house to spot check his measurements in late April, but we wouldn’t find out whether those measurements were accurate until they opened the wall at the back of the house a few weeks ago (they were spot on).
There were two places where the addition would open up to the house – in the master bath and through a hallway closet that would ultimately become the entry to the room. The guys hung a tarp to serve as a partition of sorts when they cut through the exterior wall – which means the only thing between my bathroom and a half dozen workers was a blue tarp. Sometimes I walked to the end of the road to use the bathroom at the gym rather than use the one at home with the tarp.
Once we discovered the existence of wormwood (the ceiling planks we used in the hallway bath remodel), we changed direction and used them in the new addition as well. It totally changed the character of the room. I kept eyeing the leftover pieces of wormwood from the cuts they made for the ceiling, and finally decided there’d be enough to also use on the wall in the master bath.
The master bath during construction: Still in progress, but almost finished. . . In January we decided on all the design particulars of this one new room. Building the room on a slab rather than crawl space left us with a decision about flooring options. I didn’t relish the possibility that the sound of walking on hardwood floors could be different between the slab foundation and the crawl space foundation of the original house, so we decided to use brick. Everyone that sees our new brick floor has asked if it was an original patio or some part of the original house all along. One of the early chores of the project was to meet with the electrician about the lighting plan – although it became more of a negotiation than a meeting really. I wanted to convert my beloved sconces to be hard-wired and permanently attach them to the wall. He suggested I buy new sconces. I asked that all the outlets be switched, but eventually compromised on half the outlets – which turns on exactly two lamps. By the end of our meeting, he had told me I was ”obviously afraid of the dark.“ It all worked out in the end and there’s a light, outlet and switch in all the right places. The furniture movers had only one day available last week and then they were booked until the end of September, so we hauled the furniture in from the storage room a few days earlier than perhaps the contractor had hoped for. There’s still a pretty hefty punch-down list of things yet to be finished, but the guys have cleared out their tools and for the first time in months our house doesn’t really look like a construction zone – aside from the gutter strewn across the back yard, the dumpster across the street and the port-a-potty in the driveway, of course. But none of that will prevent me from the most wonderful part of renovating: decorating.
The last time I wrote about remodeling our hall bath we had removed the old cast iron tub and an accumulation of squirrel nests that were no doubt as old as the tub.
Paul has worked with us on remodeling projects several times over the years and he was making great progress on the hall bath. With the tub removed, he repaired the rotten floor boards, updated the plumbing, and moved the drain to a more central location for a shower.
Once the new plumbing was in place, we covered it up (a collective gasp can be heard throughout the land). I wanted to create a more spacious powder room in lieu of having an extra shower/tub we didn’t need. In a small house, it’s nice when a room can feel a bit oversized (relatively speaking, of course), and we can always re-install a shower down the road if necessary since the plumbing is already in place.
Next up was the ceiling. We had planned to use a simple pine plank ceiling until Paul discovered our local Lowe’s also carried worm wood planks. We changed direction.
Healthy trees usually expel beetles by producing a defensive resin. But cycles of warm weather have weakened some of these trees preventing them from producing enough resin to ward off the beetles. Blue stain fungus spreads from the bark beetles to the Lodgepole Pine, Douglas Fir, and Whitebark Pine trees where the fungus works symbiotically with the beetles by turning the tree wood into nutrients. A byproduct of the damage done to the tree is this beautiful, eco-friendly, blue pine lumber streaked with a natural blue-grey stain, also called Beetle Kill Pine. The beetles don’t weaken or contaminate the wood and the fungi is burnt away during the kiln drying process. I’m totally in love.
After applying a light skip-trowel finish to the drywall and tiling over the shower drain, Paul had a family emergency. We pondered the situation for a few days and decided we could finish things up on our own since Paul had already left all the materials ready to be installed. It only took a couple of afternoon’s worth of work to finish things up.
We painted the walls ( a perfect shade of blue that I found on the Lowe’s OOPS rack) and installed trim around the ceiling, window, door and baseboards.
I’ve recently read that one of the trends designers are most ready to get rid of is the accent or “feature” wall. Sometimes we have to go our own way.
On my last trip to the E.J. Victor showroom in High Point, I snatched up 10 partial rolls of wallpaper for just $5. The box says it had been used in the AERIN Fall 2013 showroom, although I couldn’t find a photo anywhere to confirm this (Aerin Lauder is the granddaughter of Estée Lauder).
Eventually I realized wallpaper was the perfect answer for the awful blemishes on the wall behind the sink, and the fact that there was already a chair rail dividing the wall meant partial rolls were no problem.
We also replaced the light fixture over the sink with a pretty brass one I found on Amazon that looks sort of like a picture light. It’s considered a ‘make-up’ light and includes options for warm, natural or pure white light. I chose the natural light, but now sort of wished I had gone with warm. So many choices.
Paul had already installed an under-mount sink and faucet into our antique cabinet.
Most of our spare art and accessories are locked up in a small storage room while we finish construction, but I had stumbled onto an adorable poster last year and slid it under the bed for safe keeping. We opted for a traditional frame from the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $7, slid our poster in front of the frame’s original art, and carefully put everything back together.
We’ve had “Stinky” the tissue holder for a long time, and fortunately the console table was at the front of the storage room. I stained a simple dowel rod to hold drapes that had been in the master bath. Maybe I’ll add another accessory or two when we’re fully unpacked, but the hall bath is finally remodeled!
Earlier this year we mapped out a plan to transform our cottage into the perfect retirement home. After twenty years of remodeling homes, and despite the skepticism among friends and family, we think we’re ready to stop remodeling – after this one last project, of course.
With one more room, the cottage would be the perfect home. We’d take down a few trees, level out part of the mountain, and there’d be enough space for another room at the back of the house. And while we’re at it, we’d upgrade the kitchen appliances and remodel the hall bath. Piece of cake.
A Conservatory and a Carport
After construction was delayed through the winter, the one-room addition finally has walls with windows and doors, a roof and electrical. By the end of the week, it should also have insulation and drywall.
The workers spent most of last week adding the batten-style trim to the exterior that will create a cohesive look with the original cottage. Then we’ll be ready for paint and a metal roof.
The Hall Bath
We must have been delirious the day we decided to go ahead with the hall bath remodel while construction on the addition is still in-progress. But here we are.
The original bath was unremarkable. We updated the toilet and the floor last year during the first phase of remodeling, leaving the original tub and wall-hung sink in place. . . a.k.a. perfume on a pig.
Demolition exposed nothing more sinister than mounds and mounds of squirrel nests – inside the walls and under the old cast iron tub. Once we cleared out the nests, we could also see the sub floor was rotten – and we reinforced those support beams that just happened to be holding up the back of the house. It could have been worse.
The tub was a historic beast.
When we realized our local Lowe’s store had a small inventory of wormwood ceiling planks, we quickly snatched them up for the ceiling.
We found an antique cabinet at a local shop for the vanity that we’ll pair with a sink from the Restoration Hardware outlet in Asheville. The question is to paint the cabinet, or not to paint the cabinet. . . ?
I could have recovered from an injury and trained for a full marathon in the amount of time it took our stove to arrive. But it’s finally here, and we love it.
And I bit the bullet and replaced the sconces on either side of the kitchen (all six!). Even limiting myself to choices that were $100 or less each, it was a big gulp. But now the kitchen is basically done. Well, there may be one more thing or two. . .
The contractor had estimated construction would last just 16 weeks. It was originally due to be finished, in fact, on the very day it began. This one last project, and we’re definitely done. 🙂
The body prefers a relatively stable temperature of 97.7– 99.5°F (36.5–37.5°C). Whether shivering from the cold or sweating from the heat, the body is attempting to maintain the core temperature close to 98.6° Fahrenheit. This process is called thermoregulation.
Early studies concluded we have a thermal circuit-breaker (also known as the Central Governor) that trips when we get too hot, and those studies limited sports research for some time. Subsequent studies, however, have shown that trained athletes are able to push their core temperatures higher than sedentary people. In fact, that thermal circuit-breaker seems to be triggered more by a perception of heat rather than the temperature itself, and our perceptions of heat are blunted by the mere presence of competition.
The first event of the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Qatar was the women’s team time trial, a mid-afternoon 40-kilometer cycling race in temperatures averaging 98.4°Fahrenheit (36.9 C). Three cyclists from one of the teams swallowed ingestible core-temperature-sensing thermometer pills with their breakfast as part of a study to investigate the effects of hot-weather, competitive exercise. The researchers found that the three women had peak temperatures during the race ranging from 105.4° to 106.7°F (40.8 to 41.5 C).
It had long been accepted that if you ask an athlete to exercise for as long as they can in a hot environment, they’d quit when their core temperature reached somewhere around 104°F (40 degrees Celsius). These three cyclists all reached higher temperatures than the perceived threshold, yet they hadn’t collapsed. They won a medal.
Exercise produces heat that the body must eliminate so that it can maintain a stable core temperature and prevent over-heating. Exercising in hot conditions is even more challenging since the primary source of eliminating heat through sweating is less effective in hot and humid environments. If the body sweats so much that it depletes itself of fluids and salts, there’s nothing left to sustain the evaporation process. And when the process of regulating ceases, body temperature soars causing heat illnesses or even heatstroke.
Studies find that after a period of heat training/acclimatization, however, our bodies are able to produce more sweat and earlier, overall core temperature and blood lactate is reduced, blood plasma volume increases creating better cardiovascular fitness, skeletal muscle force increases, and we get better while training in a wider range of temperatures including cold weather. In fact, purposely training in the heat may be more beneficial than altitude training since we adapt more quickly to heat stress than to hypoxia (oxygen deprivation).
While many of these benefits can be obtained by simply living in the heat, exercising in heat speeds up the process. And there’s ways to mimic heat training, in case your next race is in a hotter climate than where you live.
This post discusses key points regarding the athlete’s response to heat; hydration, dehydration and sweat; heat versus altitude acclimatization; pre-cooling methodologies; and thermotolerance training techniques and guidelines.
Brain: an almond-sized portion of the brain (the hypothalamus) is hyper-sensitive to changes in core temperature. If the core increases by even one degree, it reacts by opening blood vessels near the skin and routing blood to the periphery where it can cool. In an environment where the air, humidity, wind and sun feels warmer than 99.5°, the brain will limit contraction of the muscles as a way of telling the body to stop generating so much heat. This forces the athlete to slow down before becoming too hot.
Skin: As warm blood reaches the skin, pores expand and you begin to perspire. The sweat evaporates and cools the blood directly underneath. If the air is warmer than your core temperature, sweat is actually wasted and your condition worsens since the sweat fails to cool but contributes to dehydration instead. Pouring cold water onto the skin will help, but only temporarily.
Heart: When blood is over 98.6°, and more blood is being pumped near the skin for cooling, the heart is working harder, beating faster. Perceived effort will increase and recovery will be longer.
Of Special Note: Data froma multidecade study of 2,300 Finnish men found that those who hit the sauna four or more times a week were only a third as likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s compared with those who took just one sauna a week.
In a 2017 study from Qatar, participants showed a 17 percent boost in muscle strength after 11 days of sitting in a heat chamber at roughly 120 degrees for an hour at a time. The technique might be particularly relevant for injured athletes or those recovering from surgery as a way to maintain their muscles when they can’t exercise.(Alex Hutchinson, OutsideOnline).
Dehydration and Sweat
While fluid plays a role in heat, it is actually more minimal than we may realize. When athletes are allowed to pace themselves in trials where they are limited to small volumes of fluid or do not drink at all, they reach the same core temperature as when fluids are consumed, but they take longer to finish. It’s not necessarily the fluid ingested that keeps us cool, but the metabolic rate, or how hard we are exercising that affects core temperature. The guiding principle here is to always drink to thirst.
Sweat rate also has nothing to do with the rate we burn fat or calories. An individual’s perspiration rate is mostly dependent on genetic make-up, training, and how the body responds to heat stress.
Some people lose more fluids than others, and men perspire more than women. Testosterone can enhance the sweating response, as will anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, allergy, decongestants, and weight loss medications. Caffeine has a similar effect.
Urine color is determined to be a simple way to assess hydration. Observe urine over the course of a day and notice changes in flow and color. Volume and frequency should be consistent and the color should be lighter, or close to clear, toward the end of the day.
Why It Hurts
Core Temperature = Heat Production vs Heat Loss
Heat is produced when muscles contract and is directly proportional to how fast you are running. Run two times faster, twice as much heat is produced. Consequently, it’s the shorter, more intense races that produce higher core temperatures.
Heat loss depends on evaporation, convection and radiation with the environment being the crucial factor:
– high humidity prevents evaporation,
– high air temperature prevents both evaporation and convection from cooling the body.
Runners learn to push through the pain, but to successfully push through the pain means we must also understand the warning signs that would spell disaster in any given situation.
If our perceptions of heat are blunted by the mere presence of competition among other things, overheating could become the unintended outcome. Know the symptoms of overheating: headache, dizziness, disorientation, nausea.
The Gender Gap
In 2011, VF Corporation, the parent company of Smartwool and The North Face, commissioned a 1,200-person study examining how women and men respond to exercise in hot and cold temperatures.
Their findings show that women run warmer than they perceive. In winter, women’s coldest zones are the backs of the hands, the glutes, outer arms, and kneecaps. Women’s upper backs, calves, collarbones, and pelvis emit more heat during stop-and-go cold-climate activities, such as skiing. During hot-weather exercise, women’s legs are markedly cooler than their upper bodies, while men are more evenly balanced. Women’s feet are always colder than men’s, regardless of the outside temperature.
Acclimatization and Thermotolerance
Thermotolerance is the end result of a successful program of heat acclimatization, where an athlete trains with the specific purpose of making the body functional in a warmer climate to which the athlete is accustomed. (Encylcopedia.com)
Acclimatization methods consist of two types: heat and altitude.
The body undergoes a natural acclimatization to warmer temperatures or higher altitudes, known as passive acclimatization. It is possible to speed up this process through a gradual buildup in training volume, known as active acclimization. While both heat and altitude alone are stresses to the body that will contribute to the acclimatization process, heat or altitude without exercise will not be as effective.
Altitude Acclimatization develops the ability of the athlete to better utilize oxygen, which makes them more effective at sea level competition. At higher altitudes (≥8,000 ft / 2,500 m), the body compensates for the decrease in available oxygen by increasing its production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen through the body. Altitude training will increase oxygen capacity by between 2% and 3% in a period of about three months. Although this benefit will remain for several weeks in an ever-decreasing amount, it will be completely lost within three months of returning to lower altitude.
Note: Altitude training is broken further into three types: “live high/train high,” where the athlete both lives and trains at altitude; “live high/train low,” a regime where the athlete lives at altitude but trains at sea level; and sea-level training, where the reduced oxygen environment of higher altitudes may be replicated through an artificially configured house or training “tent.” The extensive scientific research regarding altitude training confirms that all three methods will enhance sea level performance.
In the Heat Acclimatized athlete, cardiac function improves resulting in increased plasma blood volume accompanied by a 15-25% decrease in heart rate. This means there’s more water in the blood stream that can be used by the sweat glands to produce more sweat. Thinner blood means it can also transfer heat more effectively to the skin. (Note: the systems of the body adapt to heat exposure at varying rates.)
Heat acclimatization also reduces muscle glycogen utilization and post-exercise muscle lactate concentration. Chris Minson, a professor of human physiology at the University of Oregon who studies heat acclimation responses in athletes, has also found that changes to the heart’s left ventricle specifically helps to increase oxygen delivery to the muscles.
Hot and dry environments are different from hot and humid environments (desert vs jungle) – sweat rates being higher in humid environments (the rate of sweating influences thermoregulation). Acclimation is also dependent on the volume of exercise, intensity, and how long the core temperature remains elevated.
In a nutshell, heat acclimatization causes the body to shed fluids sooner by sweating sooner, lowering the core temperature, and making the athlete more comfortable – perception of effort being key to exercising longer (a decrease in ‘perceived exertion’ occurs during the first five days of exercise-heat exposure). An added benefit is that many of these adaptations will be useful even in cool weather training.
The human body is very adaptable to heat, and to corresponding humidity, with the major benefits achieved within 10 to 14 days of beginning a heat training program; most athletes will reach an acclimatization of approximately 75% (defined as an ability to perform to 75% of their top level) within five days. If the athlete is not exposed to warm weather conditions on a regular basis, however, the body will require another acclimatization period. On the bright side, re-acclimatization occurs more rapidly than the initial acclimatization when re-exposed to heat (Weller et al., 2007).
The chart below compares the benefits achieved during heat training as compared to passive acclimatization (no exercise) and exercising in cool conditions.
The Central Governor Effect (and sometimes lack thereof)
In a 2012 study, the negative effects of cycling in 89-degree heat were partly erased when the thermometer in the room was rigged to read 79°F. In other studies, athletes react to hot conditions when their skin temperature is warmer to the feel even though their core temperatures were actually lower. There’s also research that suggests our perception of effort is lower in competition, partly because our attention is focused on the competitors rather than our own pain.
Exercise physiologist, Jo Corbett, and a team at the University of Portsmouth put cyclists through a series of 20k time trials in cool and hot conditions, with and without competition. The cyclists hit higher temperatures during the competition than when they were soloing in the heat, although their ‘perceived’ measurements were the same. ”Thermal sensation” (how hot they felt) was the same, as was “thermal comfort” (how pleasant or unpleasant the heat felt). Racing against a competitor created a disconnect between how hot they were and how hot they felt even though they cycled faster and generated more power during the head-to-head competition in hot conditions.
When athletes in one study were equipped with a small electric heat pad tucked in the pocket of their shirt, they gave up 9 percent sooner even though none of the physiological measurements – blood lactate, core temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, stroke volume, cardiac output, oxygen uptake, ventilation – were different. They simply quit because they felt hot.
This doesn’t change the fact that our bodies undergo significant added stress while exercising in the heat, but it may be useful to know that a great deal of the pain is purely psychological.
The Pre-Cooling Option
Numerous studies have shown that pre-cooling before prolonged exercise in hot temperatures may help sustain intensity and speed, however, definitive conclusions on its effectiveness have not yet been established.
Methods of pre-cooling include whole-body cold water immersion (17-30°C for 30 minutes); cold air exposure; cooling garments; cryotherapy; and internal cooling methods, such as cold beverages, ice slurries, and ice bars.
Some athletes follow the low-tech protocol of simply applying ice packs – to the back of the neck, chest, underarms or between the thighs – with preference to areas with the highest blood flow. Because thermoregulating the brain is essential (and ‘perception’ is everything), ice on the neck significantly relieves perceived heat stress. One study also found a 20% increase in cycling power during an intermittent sprint when ice was placed between the thighs.
Athletes sometimes report feeling heavy or sluggish following whole-body cold water immersion. An alternative is to expose just part of the body to cold water by soaking garments in cold water, or submerging specific active or inactive body parts directly in cold water (such as the hands or legs).
Practicality is a logical consideration when choosing a pre-cooling protocol.
Hampers the performance of sprinters
Better for sports with intermittent sprints
Best for endurance events, triathlons, cycling races or marathons
* Pre-cooling has also been shown to improve performance in lower ambient temperatures.
Make a reduction in skin temperature your major goal;
Aim to pre-cool for 8-30 minutes;
Practice your chosen pre-cooling technique before using it on race day.
Heat Training Protocols
Heat training approaches can be as simple as running outside when it’s hot; using the thermostat to create a hot environment indoors; wearing extra clothing that is certain to make you run hot; or spend time in a sauna, hot bath or hot tub post-workout.
Because heat is an added stress, however, any protocol that separates the stress of heat from the workout allows the quality of the workout to be preserved. When training in heat, training volume and/or intensity would be reduced initially as the body adapts.
A 2015 study shows that using a six-day, 104°F post-run hot tub protocol was effective at triggering heat adaptation, including a 4.9% improvement in 5k time in 91° heat. The advantage of using a sauna or hot tub is that it prolongs the amount of time the core temperature remains elevated (going for a run in normal conditions elevates the core temperature, and the hot tub prolongs this period of time).
Here’s a graph that shows core temperature (38.0 C is 100.4 F; 40 C is 104 F) at the end of a 40-minute hot run before and after the hot tub protocol:
Heat Training Guidelines
The most successful heat training programs will follow a progression:
Training volume and training intensity are reduced initially.
Both volume and intensity are increased as the athlete begins to adapt.
Exercise extreme care to ensure proper hydration is maintained at all times – before, during and after training sessions. When dehydration or salt deficits exist, cardiovascular and thermoregulatory responses may be negatively affected, and the theoretical risk of heat illness increases.
Increase the sodium in your diet for the first few days. Sodium helps the body retain necessary fluid for temperature regulation.
Take breaks to allow the body time to cool down.
Ultra running coach Jason Koop says, “at a certain level, you have to compromise training quality for the heat acclimation. Acclimating to the heat is additional stress [on the body], just like more miles or intervals, so you can’t simply pile it on. Something on the training side has to give.”
If you want to incorporate heat into your workouts, here’s how Koop recommends doing it safely.
1. First, pick a protocol (sauna, hot bath, or exercising in the heat) that minimizes the impact on training, both physically and logistically.
2. Koop most commonly recommends that his athletes use a dry sauna immediately after running. “It doesn’t impact training nearly as much as running in the heat, and the effects are similarly positive,” he says. He often tells his athletes to not drink water during these sessions to enhance the effect. Koop recommends spending 20-to-30-minutes in the sauna, depending on tolerance.
3. Koop says that when he has his athletes exercise in the heat—either naturally or by wearing extra clothing to simulate the experience—it will be on a long, slow day for 60 to 90 minutes. The time completely depends on the athlete’s tolerance and previous experience. But he stresses to not do this on a recovery day, because heat training is an added stress on the body. Koop recommends drinking 30 to 40 ounces of an electrolyte drink per hour during these sessions And for safety, he advises using low-traffic sidewalks and bike paths—not trails.
4. Despite the benefits of heat training, Koop reminds his athletes that running in the heat is extremely difficult and usually replaces a hard day. “You are substituting one potential gain for another one,” he says. In other words, use it carefully.
Know the risk factors of heat illness:
●Strenuous exercise in high ambient temperature and humidity
●Lack of acclimatization
●Poor physical fitness
●External load, including clothing, equipment, and protective gear
This post is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding medical questions, concerns, and before beginning any new training regimen.