Faster, better, . . . cooler? Athletes at this year’s world championships showed big gains. And not just on the clock. About 200 competitors took part in a research project on how their bodies work under pressure. These world-class athletes carried high-tech transmitters—in their guts.
An International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) project is studying the effects of heat and temperature deep inside athletes’ bodies—the part known as the “body core.” Exercise heats up the body and induces sweat for cooling. The heart and circulatory system often struggle to keep up. Trainers know that keeping an athlete’s core temp steady can affect performance.
Paolo Emilio Adami is the health and science department medical manager for the track federation. He says, “Our body is the most perfect machine that exists.” Adami is right. God created the human body to function with amazing precision and complexity. God also made the whole universe (Psalm 8:3)—and that’s a pretty amazing “machine” too!
For the IAAF study, most volunteers come from endurance events such as race walks, the 10,000 meters, and the marathon.
Researchers couldn’t have picked a better time or place for their real-life heat research. Temperatures in Doha, Qatar, location of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships, reach a sweltering 100 degrees every day.
About two hours before the start, runners swallow a red-and-white capsule. The “pills” contain transmitters and batteries. The capsules work their way into runners’ intestines by race time. During the races, the capsules record body-core temps.
Thermal cameras along the course also measure heat emission from passing runners. Athletes weigh in before and after the race to help gauge hydration levels.
American marathoner Roberta Groner took part in the project. After the women’s marathon, medical staff hung a receiver around her neck to download data.
Groner was eager to see the study results after her sixth-place finish. They could offer her useful training tips. After all, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are on the horizon. Conditions there could be every bit as stifling as Doha.
“We’re learning a lot from these elite athletes,” says Adami. He stresses that the data doesn’t affect an athlete during the competition—since it’s all gathered post-race.
“Based on this data, ideally, [trainers] should be able to tailor the needs to each athlete,” Adami says.
As for how the device leaves the body—well, ahem, nature simply runs its course.