Monday, October 08, 2007

Racing in the heat!

By Mike Ricci

Across North America, racing in the late summer or early fall can pose a unique set of challenges. Racing during these months usually means you are performing in hot and humid conditions. If you train in this type of environment, that is optimal for conditioning your system to the stress. For those of us coming from a milder climate there are a few things we can do to prepare to race our best to race well. The most important thing you can do is learn your sweat rate. Before you run, weigh yourself without any clothes. Then go run for one hour, take in whatever water you need, and then come back and re-weigh yourself. Your difference in weight, plus the addition of the water or fluid you drank will give you how many pounds you lost during your run. Divide that number by your starting weight and you will know your fluid loss per hour. If you start a log, figuring out percentage lost at what temperature will help you monitor your fluid intake much better. By doing this test regularly in different temps, you will start to see how your body reacts with varying temperatures. Knowing that on a hot day you lose 2% of your body weight would be a big advantage over others who don’t keep track. You will know you need to take in ‘x’ ounces of water, which will eliminate your chance of dehydration. Of course don’t drink too much as that can cause hypnotremia – and that can be deadly. Another idea is to hit the sauna – after your swim practice or weights is good time. Just get in there two-three times per week and get used to the heat. I know athletes that ride their trainers in the sauna but I don’t think that is necessary. One more option is to train indoors, with a long sleeve shirt on, no fan and with the doors/windows closed. If you want to take it to the next level, throw some wet clothes in the dryer and viola you have humidity too. Training with the long sleeves is something I have done with success for a number of years. Lastly, in order to prepare yourself to race in a hot and humid environment, make sure you are properly hydrated and even add a little salt to your meals to help you retain more water. You can train with salt tablets or electrolyte pills too – these have been used successfully for years by many athletes in longer, hotter races. Whatever you do, try it in training before you try it in a race.Just like preparing for a hilly course, we train in the hills. So, to race well in a hot environment, we need to simulate those same conditions. Don’t get caught unprepared. Use the tips listed here to help you overcome the more extreme conditions you may be faced with racing in this season.