The summer is a great time to be outdoors. After long months on the trainer, in the pool and doing repeats on the treadmill, you can finally enjoy those rays from the sun. But, as with anything, too much of a good thing can be harmful. In this case, too much sun – without protection – can be bad. Too much sun can cause skin problems later in life or a nasty burn the next day.
Melanoma is one of the leading cancers in Canada, and triathletes are at an increased risk of developing it. One of the best rules for avoiding skin damage while training or racing is to try and not go for sessions while the sun is at its highest point, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Obviously, this can be impractical with long-course races stretching from 2:30 hours to 17 hours. However, there are ways to increase your protection during these long training sessions or on race day:
1. Apply sunscreen early. Before you go to body marking or put on body glide to get into your wetsuit, make sure to put on a good dose of sunscreen.
And most importantly, make sure to reapply. In a race, it can be easy to forget, so make sure you take the time to practice reapplying sunscreen in T1/2. At most long course triathlons, volunteers will be ready to cover you in sunscreen when heading out onto the bike and run.
Make sure you buy an oil-free (broad-spectrum) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher protection. Broad-spectrum sunscreen covers both UVA and UVB rays, so you’re protected from both sunburns and long-term damage.
2. Consider your tri-suit. A lot of new athletic and outdoor clothing has great UV-blocking and reflective fibres in it that are even better at protecting you from the sun than many sunscreens. You may also want to consider trying a tri-suit with sleeves to help protect your arms from the sun.
3. Wear a hat. Not only are hats great for protecting your eyes and face from the sun, but they can also be part of a well organized heat-cooling protocol. Over longer distances, it is important to help your body cool. By wearing a hat, you can collect ice in it at aid stations and keep your head cool. By keeping your head cool, your body will feel “cool.”
4. Sunglasses. Don’t be fooled by clouds; the sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds. So make sure to keep your eyes protected from the sun and its reflection off the lake, tarmac and any road signs you pass by.
It’ also not a bad idea to have a few pair of sunglasses on hand that you can store away – a few for training/racing, driving and walking around.
Enjoy the sun and get outside for your training sessions, because summer lasts only so long here in the great white north. But don’t forget to keep safe from the rays.