Training in the heat during Rio 2016
The Olympics are upon us (5-21 August) and as thousands of athletes prepare to compete in Rio, many British competitors will be adapting their training routines and approach to help them compete in a warmer environment than they may be used to.
Fortunately, August is a winter month for the southern hemisphere, so it should be slightly milder than during the height of the Brazilian summer, when temperatures often top 30°C. Temperatures in the coastal city of Rio typically range from 19°C to 26°C in August; it’s also a low month for rainfall.
Here are our five tips for those training or competing in hot weather.
- Keep hydrated
It sounds obvious but it’s absolutely essential to drink plenty of water (see our blog on The importance of hydration) and to replace the electrolytes that the body loses through sweat. Some athletes use glycerol to increase the retention of fluid and electrolytes, as otherwise drinking too much in one go will simply result in losing water through urination.
- Give yourself time to adapt
Training indoors in a heated environment can help you acclimatise to a competition in a warmer climate (see our blog: What is Bikram yoga?). When your body is used to training in a hot environment, its heat-regulating mechanisms will kick in quicker than if you went straight from a cooler climate to a warm one. Ideally you need a couple of weeks to adapt, although even a few days will be of some benefit.
- Keep your cool
Remember the ice bucket challenge? Taking a cold shower or bath could help you lower your temperature before training in the heat – athletes having been wearing ice vests at the Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta games. However, be aware that you need to get the balance right, as although an ice bath or pack can lower your core temperature and delay overheating in a hot environment, ice can also reduce muscle strength, which could affect your performance. Best to consult a professional for advice.
- Listen to your body
Top athletes will be in tune with their bodies and will have professional trainers on hand. Even if you regularly work with a personal trainer or take part in a fitness class, it’s important to keep within your capabilities when training in the heat. As soon as you feel lightheaded, sick or excessively fatigued, take a break in the shade or a cooler room, rehydrate and wait until you recover before continuing your work out. (See our blog: How to avoid over-training)
- Wear the right clothing
Today’s sports clothing is specially designed to keep you cool and dry, whatever the weather. Hi-tech fabrics will wick away moisture and reflect the sun’s rays – some also have useful odour-controlling agents, and breathable fabrics with mesh panels and perforated vents to help with airflow.
So whether you are training or competing during an unusually warm day in the UK or in a hot climate abroad, make sure you take extra care and get professional advice to keep your cool and perform at your best.