Despite the unexpected recent snow, hints of Summer are supposedly beginning to shine through in the more Northern northern hemisphere (i.e Europe). With these longer days and warmer weather, and more people training in hot conditions away on training camps, I thought I would share some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt over the past 6 months about training in the tropical heat of Thailand.
Scientifically, it is said that training in the heat is hugely beneficial. This article is based on personal experience and advice I’ve been given along the way, and I would love to hear your opinion on the matter, whether you agree or disagree.
To a certain extent, I would agree with this. Training in the heat may be beneficial. But when doing so in intense heat there are certain things that you should be aware of.
1.) I get through so much water. Imagine going on a ride and in the space of 5 hours, drinking over 7 litres. And still coming back 2kg lighter. Essentially, I’ve lost 9 litres of fluid. That’s a lot.
Don’t be afraid to take more drinks stops on bike rides, particularly the long ones. Coming back severely dehydrated will weaken you even more and make recovery time longer still.
Not only that, but you’re losing more fluid than usual throughout the day. Just living is more exhausting – I work up a sweat just hanging out my laundry in the shade.
2.) Recovery time is longer. I am more tired after a work out and find myself napping more than I usually would back home. I have also been pretty ill a few times this year already, whereas in the UK, I would rarely have a cold.
Admittedly, the intensity and duration of my training has increased.
But also, my immune system is compromised due to the increased physical exertion and stress of training and living in 40C+, and I’ve learnt that consequently, I need to give it more time to recover and sleep (easier said than done). I’ve also learned to embrace AirCon (on eco setting).
3.) Some say you should “train how you race”. And yes, there is obvious logic in this and on the whole I would agree, but somethings that you do in racing should be avoided in training as they cause more destruction than benefit.
For instance, don’t unnecessarily go on a run in the middle of the day in the heat. You will finish dehydrated, exhausted and drained. The benefit you get in terms of running will also decrease as your times will slip (sometimes quite dramatically).If you have to because of scheduling, try and do it indoors on a treadmill – perhaps not as interesting, but it’ll be far less destructive.
This may mean more planning is required in terms of scheduling your sessions, but it is worth it. I drop off bottles around the run course I am running beforehand, to make sure my fluids don’t get too depleted, even if it’s a steady run session (don’t forget about them though!)
4) Don’t be fooled by the AirCon. I’ve been caught out a couple of times thinking I’m well hydrated before a session, when in actual fact I’ve barely been drinking through the day blinded by the coolness of an AC’d room. Keep sipping throughout the day, and embrace the coconut: liquid gold. They contain the essential electrolytes our bodies require, helping you achieve the right electrolyte balance. Also, don’t put the AC on too cold – don’t want to go the opposite way and catch a cold!
5) Get sweat-tested. If you’re going to be training and racing in the heat and have experienced hydration and/or nutritional problems in the past, I would definitely recommend getting sweat-tested (read what sweat-testing is here). Many athletes I’ve talked to have resolved long-term issues by supplementing their race nutrition with a couple of salt tabs.
(PC cover photo: Mr.Orangedog Photography)