With the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour kicking off in tropical Saipan this weekend, many athletes will be making the shift from cold, winter climates, to warm ones for race day. To help you prepare for that climate change, we reached out to top age group athlete recently turned pro, Kelli Montgomery. Kelli has been a coach for over 20 years and knows how to prepare athletes for big temperature shifts, just like she’ll be experiencing later this month when she travels to Phuket for XTERRA Thailand.
How to be Ready for the Heat
For some of us who live where it’s cold, but want to race where it’s hot and humid, it is important to incorporate strategies to deal with the heat into your training. If you prepare for the heat and acclimatize properly, you’ll be able to reduce the negative impacts of a sharp climate change, and avoid a meltdown on the side of the trail. Trust me, I know from experience, it makes for a better experience all around.
To be ready physiologically and psychologically for your hot weather race, here are tips and tricks to do before race day.
- Arrival Date – If you are able to get to the race well ahead of time, say 7-14 days in advance, that’s a huge plus. This way you can train in the environment and get used to it. But not all of us have the time or ﬁnances to do this so the other alternative is to create an artiﬁcial hot environment to the best of your ability.
Training Tricks – Keep your training room warm and don’t use the fan on the bike trainer or treadmill. You can even go as far as using a space heater to really crank the temperature. If the weather happens to warm up, keep some extra layers on to really make you sweat. Training with extra layers will also help you prepare mentally by forcing you to be uncomfortable and feeling hot, just like in the race.
- Heat Things Up – If you have access to a sauna make use of it right after your training session. If not, then ﬁt it in when you can. The beneﬁt of a sauna right after your workout is that your body is already heated up. Start with 10 minutes and work up to 30 minutes. Leave the sauna when you can still stay in there a few more minutes, not when you are at your limit of handling the heat.
- Fitness Level – Get ﬁt and be consistent with your training leading up to the event. A high level of ﬁtness will help you better handle the heat and acclimatize faster.
- Lighten Up – Shed the extra pounds. Extra body fat is like extra insulation since body fat impedes dissipation of heat produced by our working muscles. Your body will be able to cool itself better if there is less to cool.
Don’t be “That Guy/Girl”
Some triathletes take things to the extreme, but you don’t want to crank it to 150% when it comes to acclimatization. It is likely to backfire if you over do it.
- I don’t recommend exercising while in the sauna, it’s dangerous and extreme.
- No plastic suits while exercising, extra layers of athletic clothing will do.
- Don’t rush your training to get as ﬁt as possible, most of the time cramming training results in over training, injury, and illness.
- Getting to lean and sacriﬁcing strength and health isn’t going to get you to the ﬁnish line faster.
Ease Into It
Once you ﬁnd yourself in the hot humid environment, or when implementing the strategies above, you should ease into things over the ﬁrst few days. Don’t start your ﬁrst day with a hard workout in the midday sun. Choose morning or early evening or cooler parts of the day. A less intense workout is less stress on the body to start with too. Just like building into your time in a sauna, to much to soon will most likely end up having some negative impacts.
It’s very important to make sure you focus on getting enough ﬂuids in your simulated hot environment or once you are at the race location. You’ll need to consume a lot more ﬂuids with the increased sweating during and post training. It’s a good idea to either measure your sweat loss or keep an eye on your hydration level. Also use an electrolyte drink to keep up on those losses due to sweating.
Finally, as race day gets closer (1-2 days before) do your training at the cooler times of the day. Stay out of the heat and sun and rest up for your race. Make sure to hydrate properly for your needs and of course, always remember…
Have fun. It’s all part of the adventure!
Coach Kelli Montgomery is a Connecticut based USAT Level II certified triathlon coach with over 20 years of pro and age-group triathlon racing experience. She is currently focused on racing off road triathlons and mountain bike racing. She has been putting her expertise to work to help athletes meet their personal performance goals in a variety of multi-sport events, while also maintaining a healthy life balance. For more information, follow the links below.