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Keep Your Cool: 10 Ways to Beat the Heat


Coach Robb

Months of training can quickly be erased if an athlete is not properly prepared for the expected weather conditions on race day. Since few of us have the luxury of putting our jobs and lives on hold and traveling to our key event four weeks early to acclimate, here are 10 key things that will help you endure the heat and realize your full potential on race day.

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1. Boost Your Fitness

The best performances in the heat tend to come from the athletes with the best fitness. The effects of the heat are exponentially multiplied when an athlete's physiology is already struggling with the workload. Even under the best conditions, heat production in the muscles increases with the intensity of activity.

Arriving at the starting line in a state of peak fitness will not only set you up for maximum performance, but it will also enable you to manage heat stress better through greater efficiency (hence less heat produced at any given pace) and high blood plasma volume (hence a greater ability to transport heat away from the muscles). These factors lead to a lower core temperature, thus minimizing heat stress and discomfort.

2. Acclimatize

One of the best ways to acclimatize is to travel to your race location well in advance of your event. But this involves added expense and time away. Fortunately, you can acclimatize to almost any environment from your home.

Start at least three weeks before your race by doing regular 60- to 90-minute indoor sessions of cycling, running, elliptical or Concept 2 rower at a low to moderate effort. Turn up the heat, limit the airflow and, if possible, add a humidifier. This will elevate your core temperature, resulting in an increased sweat and heart rate.  Do this for five consecutive days, then, over the course of the next two weeks, be sure to repeat the session for at least 30 minutes, twice per week.

The results of heat acclimation seem to be cumulative, so if you have the opportunity to train in the heat earlier in the year at home, at another hot venue or at your race site, it should help you in the long term.

3. Determine Your Sweat Rate

Calculating your sweat rate is the most effective method of determining how much fluid you are losing and need to replenish. You may find that your sweat rate is different depending upon the discipline, effort level and environmental conditions. You should try to simulate the environmental conditions of your key race and your race effort.

In order to determine your sweat rate, weigh yourself without clothes before and immediately after exercise and account for any fluid consumed. An accurate scale will be required, and you will need to avoid going to the toilet until the measuring is completed.

4. Hydrate

Body fluids such as blood are made up of mostly water and electrolytes. Muscle is comprised of 75 percent water; therefore, it should come as no surprise that a loss of two to three percent of bodyweight due to sweating can significantly reduce athletic performance.

It has been well demonstrated that athletes, when training or racing, only replace about 50 percent of fluid losses; thus, despite our best efforts, slight dehydration is unavoidable in some circumstances.

To ensure you are well hydrated before an event, drink 10 to 25 ounces (250 to 750ml) of Nutritionally Green’s Energy Fuel (which I helped develop) and/or water two to three hours before the event. One hour before exercise, drink 10 to 18 ounces (250 to 500ml) of water, then do not drink again until after you visit the toilet 10 to 15 minutes before start time. Finally, consume another 8 to 10 ounces (250ml) of water, which will be absorbed as you start your effort and will never reach the bladder.

During the race, aim to consume eight to 10 ounces (200 to 250ml) of Energy Fuel (which contains electrolytes) every 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Always Include Electrolytes

Salt is comprised of sodium and chloride, also known as electrolytes. Electrolytes help in the absorption and retention of water. As the duration of exercise extends beyond one hour, electrolyte replacement becomes increasingly important. If you notice salt on your clothing after workouts you are probably a "salty sweater" and should pay careful attention to electrolyte intake.
 
If you are heading into a hot race, eat saltier foods the week before the race and add additional salt to your meals (after receiving prior approval from your doctor). Salt pills can also be used during the race.

6. Up Your Carbs

Hot conditions tend to increase the body's need for fuel. The amount needed will vary with size of the athlete, but generally speaking you should aim for a minimum of 300 calories and 70 grams of carbs per hour.

7. Make a Plan

The best way to incorporate your hydration, nutrition and electrolyte consumption into a sensible routine is to make a plan. You may want to have a plan for different scenarios based on different environmental conditions. Practice these plans in training. Below is a sample plan.

8. Wear Cool Clothing

Light colors will enable an athlete to remain cooler than if he or she chose dark clothing. In addition, a looser fit and lighter fabric increases air circulation and helps to wick sweat away from the body. Wet clothing actually speeds up evaporation, cooling the athlete more quickly than if he or she were to change into dry clothes.

9. Develop Cooling Strategies

Remember that it is better for cooling to put a fluid in you than on you, but ideally you can do both. External cooling can be achieved by using cold water, ice or sponges in critical areas such as the back of the head, neck and chest.

In very humid conditions you may want to wipe the sweat off because the air is too saturated to do the job for you. Sunglasses can ease stress on the eyes.

10. Rehydrate and Recover

Effective recovery will help you become faster and stronger as your body adapts and super-compensates. Within the first 20 minutes after exercise, rehydrate with at least two to three cups of Energy Fuel for every pound of body weight lost.

Lower your body temperature as soon as possible by moving to a cooler area out of the sun with access to water and ice. It is also important to replace your glucose stores with easily digestible foods, such as fruit. Try to get a full meal including complex carbohydrates and proteins within two to three hours following the activity.

Following these guidelines will maximize your performance in the heat. Remember to keep cool, get the calories you need and keep hydrating. It will take some effort, but the results are well worth it.

If you have any questions or need anything clarified, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email (Robb@CoachRobb.com).

Yours in sport and health,

Coach Robb Beams
http://www.completeracingsolutions.com/
Follow my blog on TT, "Speed Through Fitness"

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I suppose all this stuff works fine for the well oiled pro. But for us normal 8-5 ers. Slow your pace a little, don't over expend your energy, I also have another tube coming from my hydration pack anchored at the top, plugged with holes and squeeze bulb. Easy to squeeze and have water cascading down my back.

 

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Tbahr-thanks for reading and commenting!   You are exactly correct - managing your energy expenditure is a key ingredient to not overheating.  If you have read any of my articles, you know that I am an advocate for the HR monitor to keep an accurate assessment of how hard the body is working to ride and manage heat.  I really like the idea of having your hydration pack to tap into.  I have my riders freeze the hydration pack - half full and then the morning of the ride, put cold water in. This serves to keep the core body temp down as long as possible and provide you the coldest fluids possible when you hydrate.  Thanks again for reading and let me know if I can help your riding fitness, nutrition or hydration in any way.

-Coach Robb

 

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On 7/3/2017 at 3:35 PM, Tbahr said:

I suppose all this stuff works fine for the well oiled pro. But for us normal 8-5 ers. Slow your pace a little, don't over expend your energy.

 

That's the problem.  There's a great degree of difference between the guys that ride everyday and those of us "Weekend Warriors".  Fitness level plays such a critical role with hydration in preventing heat injury.  Too often than not, most heat injuries are a combination of  lack of fitness, improper hydration, and pushing too hard.  For the well trained it's perhaps not as big of deal, but for those folks that aren't fit, the results can be disastrous.  I've seen it firsthand.

On 7/6/2017 at 6:47 AM, Coach Robb said:

 I have my riders freeze the hydration pack - half full and then the morning of the ride, put cold water in. This serves to keep the core body temp down as long as possible and provide you the coldest fluids possible when you hydrate.  

-Coach Robb

 

Great article!  I do this for every ride when the temps are high and it is such a huge help!   Having that cooler temp across the back works great.  I also start drinking a minimum of 1 gallon of water starting the Wednesday before a Sunday race/ride.  I've seen too many "weekend warriors" who think hydrating the night before is enough.  From personal experience, I would say that's not close to enough to ensure you are properly hydrated. 

I also add foods high in potassium and/or potassium tablets to cut down on cramps during and after the event.

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Core temp is the key (along with proper hydration, of course).  I've said it a bunch of times on threads here.  I cringe when I see guys in those full torso protection suits in 100* heat.  Once that core temp goes up bad things can start to happen, your body needs a way to lose that heat.  Its like covering the radiator in your car or truck.  Heat illness is no joke, it is life threatening, and even hydration doesn't help when it gets to a point.  When I was an EMT in southern AZ we had this concept pounded into us. 

Excellent article and timely.

Edited by BOAB
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This is EXTREMELY timely for me. I'm having huge issues with core temp wearing full gear in single track races and I need to figure out some ways to avoid the brain fade (etc) that results from overheating.

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5 minutes ago, Keebler750 said:

This is EXTREMELY timely for me. I'm having huge issues with core temp wearing full gear in single track races and I need to figure out some ways to avoid the brain fade (etc) that results from overheating.

Have you tried some light colored gear as @Coach Robb mentioned?  Personally, I have found the Moose Sahara gear to be awesome in hot, humid climates (especially their Sahara socks).  As he also mentioned, wet gear will cool you off faster than dry gear, so if you're riding ability allows you, stand up in the trail when possible to get airflow around as much surface area as possible.  When you're sweating it works like a A/C in your shorts and will have an amazing affect at helping to bring that core temp down.  I would also check into some well vented riding shorts.

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Just now, Donny18 said:

Have you tried some light colored gear as @Coach Robb mentioned?  Personally, I have found the Moose Sahara gear to be awesome in hot, humid climates (especially their Sahara socks).  As he also mentioned, wet gear will cool you off faster than dry gear, so if you're riding ability allows you, stand up in the trail when possible to get airflow around as much surface area as possible.  When you're sweating it works like a A/C in your shorts and will have an amazing affect at helping to bring that core temp down.  I would also check into some well vented riding shorts.

My pants (Husqvarna brand...) don't flow enough air, but I do wear light colours and have bought a helmet that breathes better. I've been thinking of designed a 'cool suit' for thirty years. Maybe I ought to get on that... :)

Problem with enduro is I'm carrying a lot on my back and around my waiste, which hindered airflow too! Heck, even my arms get hot wearing elbow protection.

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17 minutes ago, Keebler750 said:

My pants (Husqvarna brand...) don't flow enough air, but I do wear light colours and have bought a helmet that breathes better. I've been thinking of designed a 'cool suit' for thirty years. Maybe I ought to get on that... :)

Problem with enduro is I'm carrying a lot on my back and around my waiste, which hindered airflow too! Heck, even my arms get hot wearing elbow protection.

I would try a pair of the Sahara Pants and socks.  I bet you will notice a big difference.  I have those factory pants you mentioned (KTM of course) and those things are flat out too hot for the summer.  I use those in wet can cool climates.  I would also recommend running an Under Armor Heat Gear t-shirt under your riding jersey.  It worked wonders for me.

 

Again, just my 2 cents. 😉

 

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Forget the thick and tall motocross socks . I just wear regular thin crew socks and it really helps . The Moose Sahara gear helps too.

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Tips from an old guy who lives out in the middle of the desert east of Nowhere.

It is regularly 115+ in the summer.

Here is how I beat the heat:

https://www.hivissupply.com/cooling-vests.html

Wear a cooling vest. It is like wearing a swamp cooler,  I carry a  plastic bag that is used to get it wet again when it starts to dry. One 16oz bottle of water  will get it wet twice.

I use the EZ vest.

Use a cooling  head cover under your helmet. I find the Mission brand to work the best:

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Mission-10-in-x-21-in-Hydro-Active-Full-MultiCool-Cooling-Wear-108007/301282934

Carry a small umbrella for when you stop it will provide instant shade.

https://www.amazon.com/TOTES-MICRO-MANUAL-UMBRELLA-MANY-STYLES/dp/B01N1UUAME?ref_=fsclp_pl_dp_13

GATORADE

Once you get overheated you will get heat stroke quickly. Water will not prevent heat stroke but Gatorade will.

I drink a quart before going out and take at least two quart that are frozen in the pack along with at least 6 16 0z waters.

Here is the the most important thing:

TELL SOME ONE WHERE YOU ARE GOING AND WHAT TIME YOU WILL BE BACK.

THEN GO THERE.

DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THE PLAN.

If you do not arrive the Search and rescue will know where to look. I always carry a CD that can be used as a signal mirror.

You can die in the summer in the desert in as little as two hours if you are out in the sun without shade and Gatorade and water.

 

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The cooling vest is a good idea for longer events but for MX, I had a trick that worked excellent.  I was a little older than most of the guys in my class so I needed all the advantages I could.  Immediately befor a moto, I had my wife dump a quart or 2 of cool water on my neck.  Kind of like getting the jump on the major sweating.  It felt a little soggy for a lap or 2 but felt great after 20 or 30 min.

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I find the thickest heaviest cotton long sleeved white shirt I can find, soak it in cold water and wear it under my pretty "wicks away sweat " jersey that I hate but is almost all that's available. I'd wear the white shirt soaked under a cotton jersey if they were available (from my sponsor) I have suggested cotton should be an option offered for those like me who think sweat needs to remain on the body a bit longer. I view the "wicking" materials as basically a moisture stealing enemy that sucks water off of you forcing the body to use more of it's supply to cool itself.

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ahhhh, 8 lanes of blacktop in the mid summer aussie sun... helmet on, jacket on...

Waiting for lights that wont change... 45°C in the shade...

the day before it was 10C... raining.

acclimatise to THAT!

10 hours a day... 5 days a week...

you dirt squirters have it EASY!😃

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S. Florida native here, lots of experience with humid heat.  When it's humid here, sweat does not dry.  You actually get wet just walking out the front door.  These are the days when it's easy to overheat.  The tips above are great.  Additional note; once you pass the point of too hot, it takes a long time to recover, so you'll have a better day if you can avoid overheating.  Based on my own life experiences, here are signs to look for.  Headache is one sign you're dehydrated and/or starting to over heat.  Nausea and vomiting, the squirts (#3 at the potty) are signs to slow down.  When you suddenly feel cold, get goose bumps and stop sweating, things just got real serious and it's time to get cooled off ASAP.  If someone turns pale white, it might be time to call for medical help.  Measure how much fluid goes in at this point, the paramedics might want to know that info.  

Edited by sirthumpalot
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i used to be in the army, and riding a bike with the gear... just plain hot.

we drink tons of water and don't ride our bikes in middays. u just don't ride when the sun is awfully hot

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Acclimatization is a big one. It's a physiological adaptation that increases sweat production with less salt loss and increased blood plasma volume. There is even evidence that the increased blood volume may increase athletic performance in even mild conditions, although that could be chalked up to heat-acclimatized individuals perceiving effort at a different level. 

I also echo the use of a HR monitor. Besides being a way to quantify your effort level, HR is also a good diagnostic tool. Know your resting HR and check it every morning...if it's elevated, it could be the sign of impending illness, over-training or some other stress your body is dealing with. Whatever the cause, it's a sign that you should probably skip anything too physically demanding. While you HR will rise slightly during the day, a significant increase is another sign of dehydration. 

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it's gonna be about 108f here today, and it's just not worth even going outside, lol.  But it is a dry heat, so, well, still not worth going outside 😅😂

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On 6/19/2019 at 3:35 PM, Keebler750 said:

My pants (Husqvarna brand...) don't flow enough air, but I do wear light colours and have bought a helmet that breathes better. I've been thinking of designed a 'cool suit' for thirty years. Maybe I ought to get on that... :)

Problem with enduro is I'm carrying a lot on my back and around my waiste, which hindered airflow too! Heck, even my arms get hot wearing elbow protection.

Back in my road racing days we had cool-shirts that had raised piping to promote air circulation under our leathers. I still have one that I wear on super hot days. The car racing guys have more of what you’re talking about with their under-layers (actual name is cool shirt) that have continuous piping sewn into them for water circulation. Neat application of space suit tech, but bulky and heavy.  

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The other day we cut down a large tree, a 12+ hour day through the Florida heat chopping and hauling large heavy logs.  Temps in the mid-upper 90's and high humidity, the heat index was well over 100.  I tried one of these things and it actually worked really well.  It has pockets that you fill with ice cubes.  When it melts, add more ice.  It helped a lot more than I expected!  

https://www.amazon.com/Greater-Than-Cool-Premium-Cooling/dp/B07NHP6CK9/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=greater+than+cool&qid=1563303582&s=gateway&sr=8-1

 

 

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Good article, only disagree strongly with the clothing recc---here in East TX it is "white n tight, or black n slack", just like the a-rabs do it.  Meaning You either desire to evap sweat or to block the lightrays, depending on which is going to be worse, either the humidity or the sun. 

Next, use RAW sea salt rather thn the bloodpressure exploding processed salt that is so hard for your body to process/regulate! BTW if your urine becomes clear, you need to replace electros and minerals asap.

Lastly, we submerge our arms up to the elbows for about 60secs in a 5gal bucket of a slurry of crushed ice and water.  No danger of stroke/temp issues/brain-freeze this way, and works marvelously fast.

(And i do not endorse it, but for many yrs i bush hog while wearing a safety hat with a frozen coldpack inserted above the hats webbing. A folded shop rag prevents any skin contact. Pure bliss LoL).

FWIW, we live an hour west of shreveport,LA and two hours north of Houston, which is conditions per sirthumpsalot---only Indonesia has worse heat-plus-humidity.

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