We have all faced this!
Right in the middle of the race when the sun shines brightly on the top, the heart beats are resoundingly loud, and the pace on the watch is way slower than your target.
You become worried thinking about all the conserved getting that is getting wasted! This is the scenario we haven’t prepared for during those many hours of trainings because it is just not possible to simulate all the race and weather conditions.
But, with a few small tweaks and tricks, you can overcome such situations on the race day! Here are some of my thoughts on how the body deals with heat and some suggestions on enhancing the physiological responses to promote cooling. These ideas can help to improve your performance when things start getting too hot in the races!
The human body is built to exercise within the range of an internal temperature between 37 to 39.5 degrees Celsius (#googlefacts). If the core temperature goes beyond this, then the body starts entering into a heat stroke zone and started adapting to protect itself.
As and when the internal temperature rises, the blood starts moving away from the working muscles and moves towards the surface of the skin in order to drive away the heat, releasing a lot of sweat. At this point, the brain starts sending signals to the body to not push hard and prevent any permanent damage to the organs that need blood supply.
To deal with such hot situations, there are two ways:
- Either you stop and wait to calm down (Out of scope! As a well-prepared athlete you chase a targeted time :D)
- Or pray for a miraculous air-conditioned area from the land of Frozen, which is also not possible.
But, being an athlete, we can teach our body to cool itself using exact effort for the moment. This can be achieved during training sessions to get the body acclimatized to heat.
There are theories to sit in heated conditions before races but only that method will not work!
To prepare for such conditions, athletes have to subject themselves to overheating conditions where the body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates. The temperature we spoke about earlier has to be raised in an athlete’s body during trainings.
So, the athlete has to increase his core temperature during training, which should not stop them from performing in heat conditions.
Usually it takes 12-15 days of training in hot weather to adapt to the heat, that is why athletes who take part in Kona, Lanzarote etc. races are suggested to reach the venue well in advance.
Athletes who live in cool or chilly weather places have solution to simulate the hot conditions.
Disclaimer : Consult your doctor before applying any of given method and perform the activity under supervision.
To be on the safer side, athletes can start the following sessions for 7 mins and gradually increase by 5 mins or so based on the feel of adaptation:
- Take a hot bath or shower right after the workout (this is very effective, and I can personally vouch for this as it has helped me!)
- And one of most effective way is to take sauna bath (this is different than steam bath) after your workout. This is not easily available in India so to help the most, set it up at your house.
- Right after an intense workout go to heated places like a car parked in the sun, etc.
- Short workouts (lower than 60 mins) for bike or runs can be performed in afternoons where there is direct contact of the Sun or heat it up using heater.
One thing you must focus on is the loss of fluids during these trainings. You must take care of electrolytes’ consumption while acclimatizing to heat.
Such heat trainings can boost the blood plasma volume, which will help to reduce sweat and help improve your cooling ability.
During heated racing, blood is moved closer to the skin and moisture is sent to the surface. The subsequent evaporation lifts away heat, causing cooling. The more evaporation an athlete can achieve, the cooler they will be.
For hot and humid conditions
In high humidity, the moisture in the air prevents easy evaporation thus making it harder for the body to dissipate heat. Therefore, the combination of heat and humidity is worse than just heat.
During hot and humid races, splash water all over the body using whatever is offered at the aid stations. For example, use cold sponges or ice. This could also mean dumping ice down the jersey or under a cap and sliding a couple of cold sponges into the chest area of the tri suit. In most cases, it is well worth slowing down at aid stations to grab these items.
Striving to stay cool from the beginning will pay off in the latter stages of races and any time lost slowing down to cool yourself down can be regained.
The race day conditions are same for each and every athlete, but to go with an acclimatized body as per race condition is the key to get the personal best in such races.
I personally follow the various ideas that I have suggested here and these have helped me in the Goan weather where I did not face the heat issue and could perform in my targeted zone throughout the race just as I performed in my trainings.
Team Recreational Triathletes.
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