Coach Marilyn Chychota’s top tips on acclimatizing for the heat
With spring comes the race season here in the Northern Hemisphere. Many early races are in hot locations, so we asked Coach Marilyn to give us her top tips for acclimatizing.
text by Marilyn Chychota | with Sue Aquila
If there is one thing you take away from this article, may it be this:
Underdone is better than overcooked.
- There is some evidence that probiotics can be helpful for heat training.
- Easy to steady workouts should be done in a small room with a heater. It’s okay to use a fan on your face. The goal is to get the temperature in the mid 80’s and to feel humid. If it is a short session, start the heater before the workout. For longer sessions, start the heater when you start your workout.
- Add a pinch of table salt to your sports drinks if you do not take salt tabs. Drink only electrolyte drinks (because you may require additional fluids, it is okay to drink some low calorie ones like Nuun etc.). Too many athletes get into trouble in hot races drinking too much water.
- Sweat tests can be helpful if you need to check your hydration needs. My goal is to be fully hydrated on the bike and end up a bit dehydrated on the run.
- Any moderate-hard to hard training efforts should be done in your normal training environment. Do not add heat stress.
- If you feel ill, unusual fatigue, etc., stop the workout.
- There is some evidence that Tylenol can help with heat acclimation. Please discuss with your MD regarding the risks. I don’t use Tylenol when racing, but I do have friends that find it very helpful when racing hot.
And what if you don’t have a small, hot room? The newest research shows good results for people who train at normal temperatures followed by hot (104 degree) bath:
- Start with 10 minutes and build daily by 5 minutes to a maximum duration of 45 minutes.
- Please be careful and make sure you never do this alone. Someone should be checking on you, “poached” is not a fun way to meet your demise.
- Drink 48 ounces of a low calorie cool electrolyte drink afterwards. Acclimation includes increasing blood plasma volume.
- If you don’t have access to a hot bath, try a sauna.
Again, if unusual bouts of fatigue start, I suggest stopping the protocol. Make sure you sleep cool each night.
All heat training STOPS three days from the race, including on the race site. Execute pre-race workouts as early in the morning as possible.
When you race, drench yourself from the start of the bike until the end of the run. Always look for the water bottles with condensation in the volunteers hands. If they lack condensation, the water is the same temp as the environment.
Be sure you have a little bit of a tan. Seriously!! If you go out there and have not been in the sun at all, you are likely to get a sun burn and have it impact your day. Before IM Malaysia, I went to a tanning bed a few times to be sure I wouldn’t have any skin burning issues on race day
Being lean matters when it’s hot.
The type of sunscreen you use race day matters!!! Make sure it BREATHES!!!
Know what type of fuel you can use at race effort in the heat. Many people struggle with nutrition in hot races because they try to use the same nutrition they would in a cooler race. This can lead to GI distress.
Watch your warm up on race morning. Be ready to go, but avoid getting hot before the race even starts. At the Olympics in Athens and Beijing, cooling vests were used by a lot of athletes during warm up.
Sleep cool! Watch that in your day-to-day life, especially during race week, you aren’t sweating constantly. Stay cool when you are recovering.
In the days before the race, keep hydration normal. Athletes get carried away with too much water and end up in trouble on race day. Drink normally.
When you are racing, pay attention to your heart rate early in the day. If watts are dropping, HR is rising and speed is dropping, you need to SLOW DOWN AND COOL OFF!!!
Follow the above advice and you can expect good things from your early season scorcher.