Managing Body Temperature in a Race

Managing Body Temperature in a Race

Anytime you are under going a race effort your core body temperature will rise. In hotter environments expect it to rise more rapidly and to greater extremes. As a result you'll notice an increase heart rate, and increase loss in water to cool yourself down, and a reduced cardiac output.

If your body is not adapted to training in the heat, or you are wearing the wrong gear expect a significant decrease in performance. And the longer the exposure above what your body can normally handle the longer it will take to recover post race or workout.

Water is obviously important as well as electrolytes but more in the days and weeks leading up to the race or workout then in the actual effort. Managing body temperature however is essential in order to maintain an decent pace while exercising.

In fact, in some cases people have a tendency to over hydrate and over consume electrolytes in races which can lead to hyponatremia and GI Issues.

Although a decrease in 2% of body weight during a race has been shown previously to affect performance, this has since shown to not be the case in another study and it may depend on the athlete as many of the top marathon runners have successfully hit top times drinking less during a race and losing more than 2% of body weight over the duration. (1,2) Saying this, it may also come down to the athletes experience as well as climate and elevation at the race venue.

One thing is for sure being too hot in a race will affect your output. Any race or workout that I remember that took place in a hot environment hurt more, two took longer to recover from and the effect on my heart rate is evident by looking at the data after.

The following are some ways to help you prepare and minimize the negative consequences.

When training:

If its hot where you live aim to train early in the morning or later in the evening.

However saying that If an upcoming race is taking place in a hotter environment, make sure to exposure yourself to heat in some of your workouts. If that's not possible outdoors, hit the sauna after with a bottle of water for a minimum of 20 minutes.

Tarps off when you feel you're starting to heat up.

Small sips of water listening to your thirst signals.

Splash water over the head and into the back of the neck between intervals. If you have a river close by jump in for a splash or bring some ice packs to place on the back of your neck when needed.

When racing:

Outside of snagging a sweet pic, going shirtless in a race has it's advantages, especially in an obstacle course race. If it's too hot however, be wary of sun exposure and wear a sleeveless shirt light in colour that is made of a breathable material. If the race has a cold start followed by rising temperatures, do a good warm up in some warm clothes and strip down at the start line.

At aid stations drink some water and splash a second glass on your body. Not all race organizers appreciate this. However I found asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission. When I raced in Quebec a few weeks back I just kept saying "Je ne parle pas Francais!" It worked well.

In a trail race you can splash your face or soak your hat in a stream along the way.

Antiperspirant blocks pores. Deodorant all the way. If you stink it may keep the competition of your back. 

I'm not a fan of packs in races unless number one you are a beginner, two you are on the second stage of an ultra beast in a Spartan Race or three you are going to be away from an aide station for more than an hour in an ultra race. You can stuff adequate fuel in shorts, tights, socks and buffs worn on your arm. Solomon makes some great bottles you can carry in your hand for water as well if that is a concern for you.           

If your race involves a water crossing this may be a good thing. However if you are racing in Tahoe for Spartan World Championships swimming in a high elevation lake will have the opposite effect. Last year I kept a dry shirt in a bag stuffed in my pants to put on after the swim. It was perfect. Lindsay Webster used a compactable wind jacket the first year when she swam past me in the water

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