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All you need to know about training in the heat this summer

Here are ten tips to train safely this summer

training in the heat

After a winter that seemed to last well into May, summer has quickly arrived. With its quick return, we may have forgotten the simplest care guidelines for the summer months. Here are a few tips to stay safe this summer in the heat and humidity, and to protect yourself from the sun’s UV rays.

(Now more than ever before, citizens need to be aware of how they conduct themselves. The novel coronavirus of 2019 has stressed healthcare systems across the world, therefore we must ask ourselves how we can play a role in acting responsibly and reducing the load we put on emergency and healthcare resources.)

training in the heat

The heat and humidity

It is well documented that training in the heat and humidity can have significant effects on endurance. This is especially true if you are trying to acclimate yourself to conditions that are hotter than “normal.” Take, for example, the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The conditions there are hot and can be especially humid. It is why some athletes head to Hawaii weeks before race day to prepare. 

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training in the heat
The Ironman World Championships often takes place in extreme heat and humidity. Here is American Ben Hoffman on the bike at the 2019 race.

While races may be on pause for the foreseeable future – unlikely to return until late 2020/early 2021 – training in the heat can have a positive effect on your endurance. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (2019), researchers from the University of Oregon found that heat acclimation (10-day period) increased the VO2 max of trained cyclists in cool conditions by five per cent and eight per cent in hot conditions. Heat training also had a similar effect on time-trial performance and power output at lactate threshold. Additionally, heat training was found to increase blood plasma and maximal cardiac output in cool and hot conditions. These improvements are comparable to altitude training used by many professional athletes. 

Despite the significance of these results, the age group triathlete needs to exercise caution when interpreting these results. A proper protocol should be implemented if you plan to train in the heat. If you are considering to do more training in the heat, consider enlisting the help of a certified coach. Here a few tips if you are training in the heat:

  1. Hide water (and sports drink/electrolyte mix) and ice on the route of your long run or at the track.
  2. Have a set route, so you can notify people of where you will be. (Safety first.)
  3. Weigh ourselves before and after to know how much water is lost.
  4. Wear clothing and equipment that is breathable. 
  5. Measure your heart rate during sessions to determine if your body is getting used to the conditions.

The sun

After a long winter, it is easy to forget just how strong the sun is. It usually comes as a painful reminder when the first sunburn shocks the body. While it may seem harmless at the time, repeated exposure to the sun without protection is dangerous. Presently, skin 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. So, here are a few ways to increase your protection:

training in the heat

  1. Apply sunscreen early. 
  2. 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.
  3. Consider your clothing. Look for sportswear that has UV-blocking and reflective fibres. These fabrics are so good that in some cases that they may be better at protecting you from the sun than many sunscreens. 
  4. 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 place ice under your hat and keep your head cool. By keeping your head cool, your body will feel “cool.”
  5. 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.

So, while it is exciting that summer is back, exercise caution this summer. Enjoy the heat and train responsibly. Especially during COVID 19, it may be more important than ever to act responsibly and reduce the load we put on emergency and healthcare resources.