Training and Racing in Hot Conditions

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Image Courtesy of Cycling Villa Mallorca

As many of you will have noticed, the temperatures in UK are slightly above average at the moment, as you can tell from the fact newly laid roads are melting and shares in Walls are soaring, it’s unusual to face temperature this warm in the UK (thankfully), but the sport of triathlon takes place over the summer, with many big races in very equatorial climates such as Hawaii and the Mediterranean. While it’s easy to write off training in hot weather as being impossible, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep training to the best of your ability in the hot weather.

It goes without saying that if you start experiencing light headedness or confusion you should stop exercising immediately and make your way home. As a result you may be better riding/running in smaller loops, or at the very least taking enough money for a train home should you start to feel a bit wobbly a long way from home.

Hydration

Contrary to popular opinion there is more to hydration than simply chugging endless bottle of water when exercising, ingesting too much fluid can result in gastric distress and actually puts you at risk of a condition called hyponatremia where the blood’s sodium levels become dangerously low, affecting around 10% of athletes at any given endurance event. Mild symptoms may include confusion and vomiting, but in severe cases can result in the athlete falling into a coma or even death. There have been no reported deaths from dehydration during endurance events, but several deaths associated with hyponatremia.

To prevent your sodium levels from dropping too low it is important you top them up with electrolytes, either through dissolving tablets in your sports drink, salt tablets, or salty nutrition. You are at an especially high risk in the heat as your body will be losing more salt through sweat than normal, so make sure your sodium intake is proportional to your fluid intake and sweat rate.

When hydrating little and often is far more preferable than taking large swigs for both absorption rate and your digestive system, running with water sloshing around in your system is far from ideal. That being said, if you are starting to suffer with severe effects of dehydration it is important you take the time you need to ingest the fluids you require.

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The heat of the Kona Energy Lab can best even the very best athletes. Image courtesy of Slowtwitch

Stay out of direct sunlight

This may not always be easy, but if you have the choice of running through your local woods or along a sweltering piece of tarmac alongside a main road, staying out of the direct sunlight will not only lower your core temperature but reduce your exposure to harmful UV rays. Always apply waterproof sun protection when training in high temperatures.

Dress Appropriately

Logic may say you want to wear as little as possible in the heat, but there is a reason desert dwelling cultures cover themselves up in lightly coloured fabrics, to protect them from the sun’s rays and allow for cooling.

We can certainly learn something from the Middle East by ensuring we cover our head when training and even considering a very light, long sleeved top if spending prolonged periods in direct sunlight. I would certainly recommend a short sleeved as opposed to sleeveless tri top if competing in warm conditions to protect your shoulders from getting sunburnt.

There are many products available for athletes looking to compete in warm conditions, such as technical base layers and socks that will wick sweat away from your body to keep you getting too sticky, as well as arm coolers to protect your forearms from the worst of the sun’s wrath.

Keep intensity sensible

If you were planning two hours worth of hill reps, it may be worth reconsidering, and going for a shorter, easier run instead. The effect this will have on your overall fitness is minimal and may avoid you having to take days/weeks off with heat stroke. In the UK we are lucky enough to be able to exercise effectively 99% of the time, sometimes you just have to accept it’s not worth the risk.

Train early/late

The sun is as it’s strongest between 12PM-3PM so try to avoid training during this period if at all possible The earlier and/or later that you train the better.

Lower your tyre pressures

Not an issue for the UK at the moment per say, but when temperatures start to peek over the 35 degree mark it may be wise to slightly lower your tyre pressures to avoid them blowing out in the heat, in 2015 the Tour of Oman stage 5 was cancelled due to tyres exploding off of the rims, video with footage here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSv9WKOyHCA

Don’t rely on your smartphone

Most smartphones have an upper limit at which they will continue to work effectively, after which they will shut themselves down to protect their processor, so make an effort to carry hard cash on you and an alternate source of navigation available to avoid ending up stranded.

Look out for each other

Keep an eye out for other cyclists or runners who may be in trouble due to dehydration or heatstroke. Take an extra bottle than normal, both for yourself and to ensure you have fluids to offer those who didn’t share the same foresight as you.

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Orica GreenEdge rider Peter Weening taking this concept to the extreme in the 2015 Giro D’Italia. Image courtesy of Cycling Weekly

Consider a swim or gym session instead

If the heat is simply too much to bear, why not embrace it with a refreshing dip in your local pool/lake or do some strength and conditioning work in the gym? Don’t be afraid to deviate from your training plan, for the sake of your wellbeing. Health should always come before fitness.

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