Health: Quiet down as you warmth up earlier than sport day

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Athletes training for an event in a hot environment can acclimate in the previous weeks, but knowing how to stay as cool as possible is important.

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Jill Barker Special for Montreal Gazette Triathlete Jackie Herring stays hydrated at an event in Des Moines, Iowa this June. Drinking cold water or an ice and water slurry can help with the mental challenge of exercising in the heat, writes Jill Barker, but use caution to avoid brain freezing or an upset stomach. Photo by Kyle Rivas /Getty Images for Ironman

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Every time I see a runner sweating out at noon during a heat wave, I wonder why they chose this at the hottest time of the day. The combination of already hard training with high heat and / or humidity is not a recipe for success. Not only does performance suffer and motivation lags, the likelihood of suffering from heat stroke or heat exhaustion increases significantly with increasing temperature.

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For some athletes, however, the decision to train in the middle of a scorching day is a calculated one. Training in the heat allows you to train better in the heat, so athletes who train to compete in a hot environment may acclimate in the previous weeks. But even the best preparation and a high level of fitness do not make you immune to heat-related illnesses, so it is important to know how to stay cool as possible.

When it comes to athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics, recreational runners, cyclists and triathletes covering kilometers during a heatwave, or kids participating in soccer tournaments in midsummer, a strategic approach to training in hot and humid conditions becomes a strategic approach Conditions reducing performance deficits and keeping active people as comfortable as possible under the blazing sun.

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Acclimatization: Heat acclimatization usually begins in the weeks leading up to an event and consists of training in conditions similar to matchday – which is why many Canadian athletes travel to Tokyo or places with similar weather well in advance of the start of the Olympics. Living and exercising in the heat gives the body time to make the physiological changes needed to more efficiently dissipate internal heat build-up that negatively impacts performance.

It is not always practical for recreational athletes to drive to a competition site weeks in advance, which means that they must simulate conditions that would be expected on the day of the event. If this is not possible through training at home in the summer months, then putting on clothes, heating up the home gym and spending increasing amounts of time in hot baths or saunas – especially after training – can cause the same physiological changes that naturally occur in hot outdoor conditions .

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Just make sure to expose yourself to the heat in small increments while keeping your exercise intensity moderate to light. As you get used to the heat, you can add minutes and intensity to your workout. There are no absolute statements about how long the body needs to acclimate, but you can count on 5 to 10 days, depending on your fitness level and heat tolerance.

Ideally, you want to acclimate yourself while doing the same type of exercise that you would during a competition, but it is still possible to prepare for challenging environmental conditions on an exercise bike or treadmill as long as you are able to turn up the heat.

Matchday strategies: The likelihood of high heat and / or humidity on the day of the event requires more than just relying on acclimatization to optimize cooling. Athletes should use some important cooling strategies before and during competition, with the aim of keeping their internal temperature within a healthy range and reducing the energy-draining heat build-up that makes exercising in hot conditions so difficult. Finding ways to stay cool even during shorter workouts will make your workout feel easier.

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The first trick is to start off cool, which can be achieved by taking a cold shower or bath before leaving the house. It’s also a good idea to bring a cooling kit. Pack a cool box with ice packs, wet towels and a hand sprayer filled with cold water and apply it to your head, neck and shoulders after warming up or during a longer break in the game.

You also want to do more than just cool overheated skin. Drinking cold water or a slurry of ice and water is surprisingly effective at lowering the temperature of overheated internal organs and blood circulation. It also makes you feel cooler, which helps with the mental challenge of exercising in the heat. Be careful: too much icy fluids can freeze the brain or upset your stomach, especially if consumed too close to the start of a competition or exercise.

One final warning about cooling strategies: the time to try them out isn’t game day. The last thing you want is to face a brain freeze or gastrointestinal problem during the competition. The aim is to improve performance, not to make an already hot day more uncomfortable.

  1. Research suggests that icing should be repeated regularly in short but frequent doses for the 12 to 24 hours following the injury or workout - a commitment not every athlete is ready to make.

    Fitness: Is It Still Cool To Ice Your Injury?

  2. Some people swear that resistance training (weight training) is the key to weight loss.

    Fitness: which sport is best for losing weight?

  3. Given the short- and long-term benefits of participating, parents shouldn't let the long break in the children's and youth leagues become a trigger for their children to drop out of organized sport, writes Jill Barker.

    Fitness: Children’s sport is an investment in the health of the future

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