Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports
It’s Summertime and it’s hot… Damn hot – at least by London/UK standards. We often joke that Summer’s out favourite day of the year. As if by some miracle of global warming (not a theory I subscribe to, but that’s a whole different can of worms), the south of the country – and for all I know, the North too.. not that I care to check that far – has been basking in 30 degrees celsius all week. Hosepipe bans are looming, and the air is filled with those large flying ants that give you the heebee jeebees.
Also, a topic that cropped up on the SkateLog forum (http://www.skatelogforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=51263) about “Staying cool during hot races” prompted some more thought on this, and I had also recently listened to a good episode from The Triathlon Training Podcast that covered this very issue.
Thermoregulation is a key component of exercise performance. Heat and humidity both negatively affect the body’s ability to control its core temperature and increase the work required for any given exercise level. Under hot conditions the cardiovascular system must work harder in order to pump more blood to the skin, and under humidity the sweat evapouration that actually causes the cooling effect becomes impared, resulting in a slower rate of cooling.
Smaller athletes are better able to regulate their core temperature because of a greater mass/surface area, plus they generate less heat in the first place. For runners this is a huge thing; on a bike it’s a non-issue because the cooling effect of the air is enough. I see skaters as somewhere in the middle.
There is a huge advantage of heat acclimation which I’ll wager that most athletes aren’t aware of – it also helps you perform better during COOL conditions. A 2010 clinical trial took a group of cat-1 cyclists and divided them into a test and a control group. The average performance (as measured by time trial power output wattage, as well as cardiac output, VO2 max and lots of other geeky variables) for both groups was recorded under both hot and cool conditions. The test group then underwent a 10-day heat-acclimation programme. Both groups were then retested, again under hot and cool conditions. As expect, absolute performance for both groups was better under the cool conditions. Also, as expected, the test group’s performance under hot conditions improved post-acclimation as compared to pre-acclimation.. to the tune of 8%. Pretty good. What they also unexpectedly found was that the test group also improved under cool conditions post the heat-acclimation… by a still impressive 6%. I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty mindblowing. A 6% power advantage is pretty huge – if you can show me another way to gain that sort of a performance boost during a 2-week taper then I’m all ears. The takeaway here is that becoming heat acclimated will produce physiological adaptions that help you perform better under ALL conditions.
Ultimately, race preparation is as much about adapting to the likely race conditions, whether that means it’s going to be hot, cold, wet, hilly, windy, or whatever as it is about technique and training. Heat acclimation is not rocket science, and if you turn up to a race where its forcast to be 30c having done most of your training in the cool evening, then don’t expect to perform anywhere near your best.
The last thought I’ll throw in is that it doesn’t need to be skate-specific training you do during heat acclimation sessions. I appreciate that the opportunity to strap on your skates and head out for a skate session during your lunchbreak when the Sun God is at his zenith is not a realistic prospect for most of us. However, it doesn’t need to be skate-specific training. For the past few months since the Spring I have personally been doing some light lunchtime running a couple of times a week, which has had immensely positive benefits beyond just the extra mileage, and now come the heatwave I can still go out and bash out a lunchtime 5km without feeling like I’m dying of heatstroke. If anything it just feels pleasant to be running in the high heat.
If you normally avoid the heat, then just getting out there and doing any form of exercise during the hottest part of the day will put you well ahead of the pack, and could be a far better and quicker way to improve your race day performance than another hard tempo slog.