Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp
It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere and temperatures are hotting up. While each person responds differently to heat (some thrive, others wilt) there are a few things you can do to beat the heat and ensure you maximize your performance. Below are several tips that you can start using immediately that might help.
When should I ride? Keep in mind the time of day it’s the hottest. In Colorado, that means from 11am - 6pm is HOT. We highly recommend getting up early (at daybreak, if possible) and getting in those big, hard miles early before the heat of the day.
ALP Cycles Racing athletes beat the heat with cold water and Breakthrough Nutrition's NBS.
What should I drink? While water is the obvious choice, athletes also benefit from a sports drink of some sort. As you exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat. Hydrating before you head out on a ride is one way to combat this loss of valuable fluids. I’ve personally had great success by drinking a preload hydration mix (that has an increased amount of sodium) 60 minutes before an intense effort like a crit or short track race, or even a long, intense training ride followed by a bottle of cold water (we like Breakthrough Nutrition's NBS line of hydration, pre load, and recovery mixes).
How do I stay cool? Two words: ice socks. Yes, it might seem a little weird when you by a box of knee high panty hose at your local pharmacy but filling it with several handfuls of ice and tying it up and putting it on your back between your shoulder blades will give you instant relief from the heat. Why panty hose? Because when the ice melts, you’ll have a small, discrete carrying case that you can reuse. In really hot conditions (85 degrees and hotter) Alison said she’s also emerged her jersey in a cooler full of ice water and then puts it on just before she raced. I also recommend carrying an extra water bottle full of ice and dumping it on your head throughout the effort to stay cool. Or get someone out on course to douse you with some water.
Benjamin Sharp (Jennifer's husband) douses her with cold water at the top of the Snake Alley climb. Photo by Erika Fulk.
How can I acclimate? If you really suffer in hot conditions, the best way to acclimate to them is to ride in them. Unfortunately there’s not an easy way around this. You can take it slow by starting your rides in the morning and working toward riding during the heat of the day. Start off exercising easy and slowly increase your intensity. Heat acclimation happens within 4-9 days of training and full acclimation occurs in about 14 days. Here’s a link to University of Connecticut’s Heat Acclimization recommendations: http://ksi.uconn.edu/prevention/heat-acclimatization/
When should I stop exercising? Cycling is earmarked with pain and suffering. We push our bodies to exhaustion and beyond normal warning signs. However, heat exhaustion and exertional heat stroke should not be taken lightly. If your body has a difficult time with heat and you feel like you may pass out - then stop. Using the tips above should help dealing with the heat.