Alright folks, it is officially “summer”, and apparently mother nature heard the calendar roll over because the temperatures are soaring. Sadly, it got hot fast, so none of us have had a chance to adapt yet. It will take a few weeks for our bodies to switch into summer mode, so in the meantime, we need to take some steps to protect ourselves in our training.
Unfortunately, we already have a reminder of just how bad it can be if we don’t with the sad death of an athlete in Phoenix this week. Personal Trainer dies from Heat Issues while Riding.
Some tips for dealing with the heat in your training:
Move Workouts to Cooler Times
If you can workout early in the morning before the heat ramps up, this may be your best option. Some of us cannot do that, so we have to work out some other strategies.
Move Workouts out of Direct Sunlight
Fortunately, we live in a fairly lush area of the country where we have some options that will let us get out of the sun. Greenways and single track trails make for great alternatives for run, or mountain bike days.
Swimming is always a Good Alternative
Working up a sweat while staying cool? Sounds like a plan. While some may not like swimming, a good swim is an efficient calorie burn and works great for helping the body strengthen and maintain fitness on days when a ride or run just isn’t in the cards.
Wear Smarter Layers
Sunscreen is fine, but it does nothing to keep you cool, and has even less value at dealing with the heat, and some of them are actually counter productive in the heat, though we do know that sunburned skin doesn’t cool as well as healthy skin. Fortunately we have options. With the lightweight technical fabrics available today, we can get better heat management by adding a layer. Sun sleeves, sun shrugs, and even leg sleeves all provide excellent sun protection, and with a little bit of water, also become excellent cooling for the heat and sun.
There are a lot of sun sleeve products out there. Even the big vendors like Nike and Under Armour offer sun sleeve products. That said, most of the big cycling specific vendors offer some better products, as they have grippers and designs that work better with cycling gear.
Protect the Neck
Unfortunately, the back of the neck remain exposed in most of our gear, and good options for protecting that are tougher to come by. On the hottest days, one of the cooling neck towels carried in a jersey pocket that can be dampened and put on the neck for those long hot stretches that are just unavoidable can work wonders.
Sadly, the message of ‘hydrate’ does not quite cover the heat. Water is critically important, but heat saps more than just water, it also saps electrolytes. Nothing will expose the loss of electrolytes faster than heat. While Gatorade type products are often consumed, they usually contain too many sweeteners and we tend to guzzle rather than sip.
A better approach for most people is something geared more towards endurance athletes, like the Gatorade Endurance products, or Skratch Labs, or Infinit or other options. Some will still need more electrolytes than even those can provide, and may need to supplement with something like Base Salt or Hammer’s Endurolytes.
No matter how you take them, the most important thing it to start taking in fluids and electrolytes early and often rather than later and in large quantities. The big challenge with all of this is that there are limits to what a body can absorb, and the extra is lost as waste. If an athlete waits until they feel like they need fluids or electrolytes, it is too late because the body can absorb them fast enough to make a meaningful difference.
Listen to Your Body
At the end of it all though, is do not ignore signs of distress. Heart Rate, Breathing, Vision, etc. Any sign of heat related fatigue needs to trigger your warning bells. Do not ignore those, because once the fatigue starts, it can get to a critical point in a very big hurry.