It is no secret that being a successful Endurance Athlete requires our bodies to be able to adapt to a multitude of weather conditions and endure long bouts of exposure to the ‘elements’.
One such extreme is the summer heat, and with scorching temperatures already becoming a regular occurrence in many regions of the country, coping with this swelter is an absolute necessity.
Being able to thrive in the summer sizzle is even more important as the calendars of so many Athletes are filled with big training rides and plenty of events they have been working toward all year.
So, what is there to do when we are confronted by scorching temperatures and the need to do a big training ride?
And what does it take to perform optimally in hot weather?
To answer these questions we must first understand the issue with achieving optimal performance in high-heat…
Athletic performance in warm weather is primarily limited by our bodies ability to regulate it’s core temperature and avoid overheating.
That is to say that completing a workout or having a great event-performance in the heat is heavily influenced by our bodies ability to remain cool.
That is why we suggest utilizing the following five-tips to help keep your core temperature low and power output high!
Exercising in the humidity amplifies an already hot day, making training and racing very difficult. Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com.
#1: Wear Clothing That Promotes Sweating.
When our bodies sweat they try to use every bit of surface area to cool themselves, but the caveat is that if our skin is moist, the body won’t sweat.
So if the clothes you are wearing don’t ‘wick’ the sweat away from your skin, a large portion of your body won’t sweat, and no cooling can take place.
This can lead to overheating and poor performance.
That is why it is important to wear high-quality sports clothing that ‘wicks’ sweat away from our skin.
This promotes sweating, and in turn cools our bodies, making it possible to perform well in the heat.
Although sweating may not be desirable in office situations or at family gatherings, it most certainly is a necessity when working-out in the heat, so bring on the sweat!
#2: Breath Out The Heat!
Another great way to reduce the effects of heat on your system is to take long, drawn-out exhales.
Much like a car has a fan to pull heat from within the engine compartment of the vehicle, full/long exhales can release heat from inside our bodies.
That is why we suggest taking deep breathes to help keep core temperatures cool.
Making exhales equal-to or twice as long in duration as inhales will help expel body-heat while also calming tense muscles.
Yes, deep breathing has a double benefit!
It should also be mentioned that significant water vapor is expelled through our breathing, thus it is important to increase water consumption as our breathing rates increase.
Strong and focused exhales can reduce your bodies internal core temperature and relax your body. Bonus! Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com
#3: Consume Adequate Electrolytes
If you are an Endurance Athlete, not doubt you have heard of the importance of consuming electrolytes, likely in the name of reducing the incidence of muscle cramps.
Although newer research is beginning to refute the connection between electrolyte consumption and cramping, consuming electrolytes remains extremely important to ensuring our bodies mineral content stays in balance.
In fact, these minerals help keep our bodies, specifically the cells, organs, and muscles, functioning properly.
Put simply, electrolytes help our muscles 'fire' normally.
When training in the heat, we suggest all liquid consumed include some form of electrolyte.
Luckily, there are many great products available to help us ingest these necessary electrolytes… and even some great home-centric methods too, that will ensure we get these critical minerals into our bodies.
What matters most is that your beverage of choice include these five electrolytes: sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
#4: Maintain High Fluid Levels
The human body is more than 50% water, and because water resides in all cells, low fluid levels can impair bodily functions.
It has been observed that a reduction in body weight, through fluid loss (sweat, respiration, etc.), impairs athletic performance.
Fluid losses as little as two-percent can effect performance in a measurable way, while losses of five-percent or more, can create major issues.
For an average American adult this means losing as little as 3.5lbs. of fluid over the course of training can cause performance diminishment, which is easy to do in hot and humid conditions.
The unfortunate reality is that our body’s, once depleted, cannot immediately replace this lost fluid by ingestion.
Typically it takes a significant amount of time for water and electrolytes to permeate our cells and rehydrate the body properly.
That is why the adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is most appropriate for training in the heat.
Getting behind on fluid consumption can spell disaster in a an endurance event, especially a highly intense one like a bike race.
This notion is why experts suggest pre-hydrating for 3-4 days ahead of strenuous exercise in the heat.
#5: Cool Yourself With Ice
Have you ever seen a professional athlete use an ice-vest?
Maybe not, but you likely already have a visual of what one looks like.
The concept is simple, by surrounding the body with ice, we can keep our core temperature from increasing, insulating the body from premature fatigue due to heat exposure.
But without access to an ice-vest, which is a fairly new technology, what can the rest of us do?
Here is a simple solution, consider bringing a knee-high stocking (panty-hose) with you on your summer workouts.
When you stop at a convenience store, fill it with ice, tie a knot in it, and drape the ice-sock around your neck.
Place the ice-sock high on your neck, high enough for the melting ice to drip on your chest and back. This simple technique can make a long workout in hot weather more bearable and increase your performance.
Hot weather does not have to be unbearable. With these techniques to cool your core, you can workout hard all summer long! Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com.
Summertime boasts long-days and warm temperatures, which makes it one of the most exciting times of the year to be an Endurance Athlete.
With many events and races scheduled this summer, along with a plethora of workout buddies to do them with, this is one of the best times of year to enjoy your favorite activities.
By embracing these five-techniques, you will be able to make the most of your workouts when temperatures soar.
Note: It must be mentioned that there are limits to training in the heat, and good common sense must be used in order to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion. Always listen to your body and don’t over-do it, as the heat can be very damaging if not respected.
Before training in high-heat ask yourself, “how is this workout going to help me achieve my goals?”
If a decrease in training volume or an alternate activity will get you the same result, we highly suggest doing it.
Although in most cases, a simple reduction in pace, intensity, or duration, coupled with the techniques above, make it possible to get in a quality training session despite high temperatures.
We hope these techniques will help you make the most of your summertime training and are confident that by keeping your core-temperature cool, the summer heat will be far less prohibitive, and possibly even enjoyable all summer long!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching