Here in the North East, it's starting to hot up quite a bit. If not prepared, training and riding in the heat and humidity can wreck your day and potentially days to follow. Good news is that our bodies do adapt, but you must get out there and ride in the heat to realize these adaptations.
Here are some tips that can help you as you begin riding in the heat, and even after your body has experienced some positive adaptations.
1. Drink enough fluids during the day.
It is widely agreed upon that everyBODY needs a different amount of fluids per day, and many outside factors can impact this quantity. For me in the summer, I know I'm right around 6 quarts a day to make sure I'm in a good place.
I use a gallon jug of water at work to be sure that I'm taking in enough water. Sometimes trying to count bottles or glasses can be misleading, and it's better for the environment to refill. As I wrote, everybody has different hydration requirements but it's widely agreed upon that athletes need more water during hotter temperatures.
2. Drink enough during training and racing.
It's hot...you're going to sweat more. It's impossible to "stay ahead of it" as we often say, but you can minimize your losses.
3. Eat enough during the day and during rides.
The hotter weather sometimes suppresses your appetite, so watch your intake. It's important to keep your energy levels high as you may be increasing your volume and/or intensity as the days are longer and the weather is nicer.
Side note--check out this article: Lose Weight by Eating More
4. Take advantage of the neutral support in races and rides.
Stop at the aid stations, top off your bottles and/or hydration pack, dose yourself with some cool water, and get some calories if the duration warrants. Just do watch your time at an aid station if you're in a competitive event. It's not a smorgasbord...go into it with a plan of what you're going to grab, grab it, and get out.
5. Stop on a training ride to refill.
You can often find delis and the like that will gladly refill your bottles with another purchase. I'll often bring a little pack of drink mix with me on long rides to help with the taste of tap water. If you live in super hot areas like Flagstaff, AZ, there will be coolers of ice cold water outside of each restaurant--it's the law apparently! No matter what, carry some cash (some small shops still have a minimum purchase for credit cards) and fill up. Again, you can be efficient and not lose too much time.
I've also been wearing my hydration pack more frequently on my longer rides so I can avoid stopping during these past couple of years.
6. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
This should be the case year round, of course, but the summer offers us some great treats. Watermelon is very high in potassium, one of our essential electrolytes. And the water content of most fruits and vegetables is very high and will serve your body well.
7. Keep tabs on your sodium intake.
Since I mentioned electrolytes, make sure you're taking in enough of the electrolyte that is lost in the greatest quantity in our sweat: sodium. Check out this great article:
Are you getting enough electrolytes?
8. Cool yourself during and after workouts.
The recovery process is sped up the faster you can cool your core. It's also great for the joints and muscles. A cold shower, or a sit in a cold stream can do wonders. The stream idea can be used mid-ride, too. If you have access to a cold plunge, that's the DEAL! I've found these techniques to be VERY effective.
9. Apply lotion and sun screen.
If your body's resources are being used to heal damaged skin, it's less energy that you can spend on repairing the damage done by racing and training.
10. Eat foods that agree with you.
Find those trigger foods and avoid them when in the height of training and racing. Again, if your body doesn't digest well, it can't use those resources and nutrients for your cycling goals.
11. Take time for yourself.
Training in general takes its toll on our bodies, and riding in challenging weather conditions can take us into even further deficit. Try to eliminate stress as much as possible and take a little time for yourself each day. Just sit and be calm, even if for just a few minutes. You can't add hours in the day, and stressing over not being able to train like you want won't change anything.
12. Keep smiling and have fun!
Remember why we ultimately all do our great sport!
Work hard and enjoy!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.