Travis Mackenzie runs in the sunshine on the last leg of a gruelling triathlon

Three ways to maximize performance in the heat

Racing in the heat can have extremely negative effects on your performance. Heat adds a level of stress to the body over and above the stress of the effort itself. Perceived effort is often much higher as well, which can add significantly to the mental stress you may feel. If you know you are going to be racing in hot conditions do everything you can to prepare for those conditions beforehand. The most ideal scenario is to move to the same climate and do as much preparation in the heat. Your body will undergo physical changes that make it more efficient in hot weather when you train in the heat.

Most athletes don’t have the luxury of physically moving to a new place to prepare because most athletes have other life things on the go like jobs, kids, families and a budget. There are heat protocols that you can do at home that will help significantly. Even implementing a weekly hot indoor cycling session will help. Here are three things you can do on race day to maximize your performance when it’s hot.

  1. Slow down! If you are doing an Ironman in extremely hot weather you may simply need to slow down. Heat adds another level of cardiac stress that may make your effort at your goal race pace unsustainable. The watts you are pushing or the pace you are running may need to be adjusted if you are not acclimated to the hot temperatures.
  2. Drink! This is an obvious one, but fluid intake usually needs to be increased in hotter conditions. When the temperatures climb your sweat rates will likely increase. This tip comes with an asterix however because there is a limit to how much your body can actually process and absorb. An increase will be necessary but there is a point where your body will lack the ability to absorb the amount you are putting in. This makes the idea of consuming small amounts frequently incredibly important. Never drink too much at once so your body has a chance to process and absorb it. This tip also comes with a second asterix. If you are getting your fluid through a sport or energy drink the increase will also increase the amount of carbohydrate and sodium you are taking in. As such, you may need to adjust your consumption of additional calories or carbohydrates from other sources like gels or bars so you don’t overdo the intake of carbohydrate.
  3. Cool down! Every chance you get, take advantage of cold sponges and ice available at aid stations. Your body traps heat in several key places- the head, the groin and the armpits. Putting ice down your shorts or under your hat is a great way to help core temperatures come down even if slightly. Another interesting strategy is to hold ice cubes in your hands. When blood travels through your body it passes through the hands and some cooling can take place simply by passing under some ice that you are holding. It may not be overly significant but every little bit can help!

Heat in races can be tough but heat in training can be your best friend and add significantly to your overall fitness. The physiological changes your body undergoes when stressed with heat add significantly to aerobic fitness. So when it’s hot in training be thankful!

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