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One of the more prevalent features in the Sacramento Valley is the extreme heat and low humidity we experience in the summer months. It provides a tremendous amount of light, feeds the plants, bronzes the skin, creates energy, and keeps things pretty darn warm. Most of our cycling and running energy expenditure is used in the dissipation of heat, rather than generating the energy needed to go faster. The hotter it is, the harder it becomes to perform at your peak level. In this article we will address our top five tips to prepare for your best performance despite the temperature.
Get acclimated - In order to perform in the heat you have to prepare in the heat. Do not be afraid to go out in the middle of the day and do your workout. Normal workouts in the heat for 5-10 days should provide acclimatization. As a rule of thumb, reduce exercise intensity to about 60-70% during this period. And contrary to popular belief, just sitting at the pool in the heat doesn’t help! You must exercise in that heat to achieve adaptation.
Hydration – Get into the habit of sipping fluid throughout the day, especially if you are in an air conditioned office setting. While exercising, drink cool but not ice cold liquid. Dowse your body with water as often as possible to help the wind cool you off when the opportunity presents itself.
Refill bottles often and use electrolytes to replace loss during exercise. You will never be able to completely replace what you lose, but strive for a 16-32 ounces (500-1000 ml) every hour. Separate the amounts into 10-20 minute increments. Try not to drink straight water, as drinking a solution with sodium will allow the fluid to be retained. After exercise, replace with 6-12 ounces (200-350 ml) amounts every half hour.
There are many products on the market that have the correct ratio’s of carbohydrates and electrolytes. They are simple to use and pre-packaged, just make sure you stick with one that you like and don’t experiment the day of an event.
Protect yourself - Wear sunscreen, wear protective and cooling clothes, find as much shade as possible (rest stops, on the road), wear light colored clothes (socks and shoes), wear technical fabrics that breathe. There are a variety of products on the market that allows moisture to wick away from the skin. And for all the men, it may make sense to shave those beards!
Know before you go -Research the weather forecast for that day. Know when the heat will begin to increase and when it will be at its peak. Do your best to be as far along in the training as possible before that spike.
Know your limits - While it is good to acclimate yourself and to push yourself, it is also important to know when you must back off – or even call it a day. Overheating can cause several significant problems that you need to avoid. If it does happen, the best possible thing is to get into an ice bath. Ice baths can increase the body’s ability to cool up to 26 times normal than when you are exposed to a similar air temperature!
As tempting as it is to push yourself it is important to go at a sustainable pace. Without question we cannot sustain the same pace on hot days that we can on cool or moderate days. Be smart, know your limits and listen to what your body is telling you!
Ride safe, ride comfortable and ride strong!
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