Training in Extreme Heat

Do you dread the summer heat?

Being based out of Nashville and Memphis, Brendan and I know all about the heat.  Both of us are from the North, and started cycling in Rochester New York. It gets really hot in upstate NY as well but it’s nothing compared to the heat index values we get in the south. 

It took going back to the drawing board the first few summers to really figure out how to get through a training ride without full on implosion

The week right after Brendan Moved to town was a doozie! We planned to really get after it and celebrate his move with a bunch of centuries in 1 week.

Well, we got out into some uncharted territory and started overheating and barely made it home. At one point we stopped at Dollar General and bought 10lbs of ice to pour down our backs into our jerseys for a few minutes of relief. It was rough but taught us a few lessons.

Learn from our mistakes so you dont make them in the first place!

Know your training zones

The heat will really have a strong effect on your body’s ability to cool. Well, duh. But the implications of that might not be as obvious as saying your body gets hot in the sun!  The harder our body has to work to stay cool, the less our body can work to make watts. Humans are not very efficient when it comes to heat disbursement and the majority of our body’s energy output  goes to keeping everything in working order, not actually making us produce power. When our body works in overdrive to keep our core temperature stable because it’s hot outside your actual Functional Threshold Power, and vo2 max alongside it will drop.

Back off your endurance output 5-8% when you first encounter these temperatures and it will make a big difference in the quality of your training. In about 3-4 weeks you will be able to gradually build up your heat tolerance.  If you don’t make any adjustments in your expectation for power output between 60 and 95 degrees you will end up training at a much higher intensity and that can lead to a lot of problems like “flat legs” and that dreaded overtraining feeling.

Good News-Riding in the heat makes you FAST!

Riding and training in the heat even has some similar effects to altitude- just need to get out and do it, you get extra adaptation.  By getting out there, even at a lower intensity, you are going to get a lot of good physiological adaptation, without having to actually train “harder”. You can expect a 5-8% improvement when the temperatures start to ease off late in the summer, or for that high octane Zwift race you hit indoors once a week.

Ice Ice Baby

When you have a hard training session or race in the sweltering summer heat, you can use an ice stocking to keep your core cool. That's right. Go get some panty hose from a pharmacy, and fill it with as much ice as you can. This old trick works because as the ice melts, cold water will disperse and keep your skin cool around your major organs, and your body’s cooling systems will get some much needed assistance!  If you have never tried this, give it a shot, it really works wonders!

Stay Hydrated

First make sure you are hydrating and fueling properly for the requirements of your ride(don’t worry we have you covered in a blog about the very topic!). 

Start your ride with 3 bottles!  If you plan on riding for more than 60 minutes in the summer heat, it’s a really good idea to start with at least 3 bottles. 4 would be tough because then you eliminate a pocket for your nutrition but depending on your ride goal you should still consider it! 3 bottles can be the difference between limping home and powering through to the end of your intervals! It’s amazing I don't see more people out there on the 3+ hour group ride in the summer with at least 3 bottles, but I’m definitely not surprised when all of those folks are off the back with 45 minutes to go in the ride! Dehydration makes you slow way down, way fast!

How We Help with WKO4

WKO4 can be used to identify temperature ranges for different CP curves. In other words, you can use collected data from the season, or past seasons, to know exactly how heat is going to affect you as an individual. Take a look at how drastically different my aerobic level is between normal riding temperatures and 90+ degrees! 

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Lets face it, intervals are hard enough to begin with, and starting an interval session you aren't sure you can complete can be a really negative experience.  Intervals should make you feel unstoppable and strong! If you aren’t sure you can complete an assigned workout, you need to have a conversation with your coach to understand why the interval prescription is what it is, and they should be able to use training data to show you that you CAN nail down that seemingly impossible session.  

  Having this sort of insight helps us as coaches by eliminating a lot of the guesswork for setting interval intensity when conditions like heat are thrown into the mix. More precise interval targeting means a higher success rate for each interval session, which means you get rewarded with more improvements for your hard work. 

In summary, you have to give your body about a month to get used to the heat, but even then, you should expect some degree of power loss at threshold and Vo2 max.  Staying on top of your hydration is going to save you from total system meltdown, especially if riding over 2 hours. Don’t forget your ice stocking, it will be your saving grace in a race or interval session. Lastly, use technology to help you understand what is going to be the right intensity to train at in at different temperatures. Everyone is going to have a slightly different response to heat!

If you want us to take a look at your CP curve at different temperatures and get some FREE help understanding your unique physiology better, send us an email today!

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