It's that time of the year again. It's hot outside, which makes training and racing very difficult.
In fact, the first key point for you to understand is that heat and humidity will have a negative impact on your cycling performance. There is no getting around this. You will never perform as well in 90 degree temperatures as you will on a 60 degree day because you expend a tremendous amount of energy dissipating heat and regulating your body temperature.
However, it's not all bad news. There are two steps you can take to improve your performance in hot and humid conditions: heat acclimatization and hydration.
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Heat acclimatization is the adaptive process by which humans become physiologically more tolerant to high heat conditions. It allows you to ride longer and faster in hot weather, but not as long or as fast as you would in cooler temperatures. Heat acclimatization also decreases, but does not eliminate, your risk of heat illness (e.g., heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke). Here are some key facts and tips when it comes to the acclimatization process:
• The only way to acclimatize is to ride in the heat; however, riding outdoors in a hot climate or indoors in a hot room work equally well.
• Heat acclimatization happens fairly quickly. Most of the gains occur in 4-9 days of training. Full acclimatization occurs in about 14 days. So plan accordingly if you will be competing in hot weather (e.g., start acclimatization about 2.5 weeks prior to a key race).
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• Begin the acclimatization process by riding during cooler parts of the day at a lower intensity and volume. Gradually increase your volume and intensity. Later, you can try riding during hotter parts of the day.
• Workouts performed in cooler conditions can be higher in intensity and longer in duration so try to complete 1-2 sessions each week in cooler temperatures (e.g., in an air conditioned room with a fan).
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• Reduce the length and intensity of your warm-up for races and events.
• Pay close attention to how your body responds to riding and racing in the heat. Different people can be affected in different ways.
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