How to Train Cool and Race Hot

I was recently invited to race a 70.3-distance triathlon in the Philippines. An experience that combined my love of travel and passion for racing sounded like an experience too good to pass up.

After speaking with a few athletes that had raced there in years prior, I learned three essential things:

  1. Filipino food is delicious.
  2. It's hot.
  3. It's really, really hot?and humid.

Coastal San Diego is an extremely temperate climate—warm, but not too hot with zero humidity. Hey, there's a reason I happily pay my share of the "sunshine tax".

Due to the short notice and an already full travel schedule, I was arriving only three days pre-race, and there would be no opportunity for any heat training in The States—post swim workout hot tub sessions, notwithstanding.  

Many athletes are faced with similar situations, given the geographic diversity and varied racing schedule.

Here are a few tips for racing your best in the heat when full-fledged heat training isn't a reality:

#1) Don't Force It

Full heat acclimatization takes at least 14 days. If you're arriving only a few days before the race, don't try to rush the process by spending too much time training in the heat. A few light workouts are OK, anything else will just leave you depleted.

More: How to Acclimate to Heat and Humidity (When You Have Ample Time)

#2) Even When it's Warm, Warm Up 

Easing into workouts gives your body time to initiate its internal cooling mechanisms—onset of sweating, dilation of blood vessels, and shunting of blood closer to the surface of our skin assist the body with thermoregulation, but these processes need time to kick in.

More: The Perfect Race-Day Warm-Up

#3) Hydrate Early and Often

As the Japanese saying goes, "When you're thirsty, it's too late to begin digging a well." Waiting till you're thirsty to begin drinking can make it difficult to for your body to overcome the dehydration deficit, leading to poor performance and potentially heat related illnesses.

Similarly, it is imperative to be well hydrated before starting an event. Weighing yourself daily upon arrival in hotter climes can help ensure that you're staying hydrated.

More: Proper Hydration for Summer Training

#4) Replenish With Electrolytes

Sodium levels that are too low are likely responsible for the unpleasant sensation of heat cramps. Even more serious is the threat of hyponatremia, which occurs when the overall electrolyte levels in the blood are too low. This is typically a result of overconsumption of hypotonic (lower relative concentration) fluids, such as plain water, during endurance events. Consume Gatorade or other fluids that have a mix of electrolytes.

More: 5 Ways to Stay Cool on Race Day

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Katya is a professional triathlete living and training in beautiful San Diego. Learn more about Katya at www.katyameyers.com.

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