There is no avoiding midday sun in a 24-hour event. Racing in temperatures higher than you’re used to will cause an unnecessarily added stress on your body, particularly your heart. While we aren’t all lucky enough to be able to fly off to hotter climates just for a race, it is still important to make sure we are as comfortable under racing conditions as possible. You’ll not only perform better, but you will enjoy the race more!
The body cools itself by pumping more blood to the skin and increasing sweating. This brings warm blood from your core ‘up’, which is cooled and sent back around the body. When looking to increase your comfort and performance in high temperatures, you can make this system more efficient.
Hot Weather Adaptation
Your body will become more responsive to the initial stimulus of the heat by sweating sooner, ensuring heat isn’t unnecessarily accumulated. You also begin to sweat more and more evenly across the body, this increases the rate at which you cool down. While this isn’t sounding too great on an interpersonal level, there is another upside – you sweat less salt. Once adapted to higher heats, your sweat will contain fewer salts, preserving their use in the nervous system and making you smell less!
Your blood is used to transfer heat from your core to your skin and extremities, after acclimation it will adapt to contain more plasma. This increases its capacity for thermal transfer and provides more fluids for sweat.
Importantly, all of these adaptations sum up to reduce the added stress to your heart while racing.
Hot Weather Training
So, how do you train your body to be more efficient in hotter climates? As with everything the only way to manipulate the body is to give it a specific stimulus. Assuming you don’t have access to a artificially hot chamber to train in. Just get out during the day as much as possible. Running or riding during your lunch break is plenty to force your body to acclimate, provided you do it consecutively. The body will only react if it has to so skipping days and will suggest you don’t need to.
Exposing your body to hot and humid environments doesn’t have to be gruelling.
Adaptation can arise due to regular exposure lasting an hour or so for consecutive days. Saunas are essentially just hot, humid environmental chambers – perfect for acclimation. If your local gym has a one – use this ‘training’ as permission to relax in the sauna for a while!
Training for hotter climates is often harder than for cold ones. A good way to get ready for a winter race is with cold showers, having a shower that is too hot, however will cause the body to sweat – even after the shower is finished. This negates the shower so just get out in high sun… and relax in the sauna!
As you’ll be sweating more it is essential that you take on more fluids and replenish losses in electrolytes! See here for more information on nutrition.
It is often suggested that you can acclimate to hot environments by reducing your fluid intake during your training – known as ‘dehydration training’. This is just wrong. Not only can this be dangerous if done to an extreme extent, but it is also based on a false pretence. Rather than helping you reinforce the mechanisms for cooling, the body will force you to slow down. You’ll become less motivated, less able to focus and if taken further you’ll feel nauseous and dizzy… not good when out riding!