First up, there’s some very good data and studies done around the use of sauna. A hot sauna treatment every day, or even just four days a week for 15-20mins, can really help you here. A lot of people have to start off with 5-8mins and then build up over time though, so the protocol on this is to start with that 5-8mins and then progress up to 15-20mins over your sessions.
There’s actually good data on exercising under those sauna conditions as well. Now, I think that’s extreme – but what can you do to replicate those hot race conditions without putting your turbo in a sauna? Yes, by all means try to turn up the heating a little bit. So if you’re training in winter for a hot race on your turbo trainer, then try to recreate conditions that are closer to those of race day by cranking up the heating. Maybe not the humidity, but certainly the heat!
Doing this also gives you a way to look at water loss and sodium loss under race-like conditions. Plus, your body begins to adapt and starts creating more brown fat, which has an insulating quality to it. The longer you have to train in a hot environment then the better your body will adapt, so I would start with these adaptations 3-4 months before your race.
DURING RACE WEEK
I will mention something about race day and race week as well. In Kona I see a lot of athletes, just before the Ironman race, running flat out at 2pm in the afternoon! I think that’s a big mistake. The dehydration you’re going to have during that short period of time, the heat overload you’re going to get, is not good! Also, generally the athlete is running a lot faster than they would be during the race and that generates a lot of internal heat and puts an amazing load on your cardiovascular system as your body tries to cool itself down – and you’re going to feel that the next day and maybe the next day after that as well as being slightly dehydrated. Your body doesn’t need that stress just before a big race.
If you do want to try out the conditions once you arrive at your race destination, then absolutely do this – but in the window about 10 days out from the race, not the week before. Try two or three days running in warm conditions and at the same intensity that you’re planning to race at. You’ve done your homework in all your training sessions so don’t be over-zealous just to see if your body can handle it – that’s just craziness!
REPLACE WATER LOSSES
One more thing – just a quick word on nutrition. The best thing to do in hot conditions is to take on fluids regularly, maybe every 8-12mins, as your body will be feeling the stress of the warmer conditions. Sweat rates vary dramatically, though! You can take an athlete of one size and look at body weight and losses through sweat and it could be completely different from the next athlete. As an example it could be anywhere up to 6% of body weight, or even 7 or 8% in an Ironman race, because the intensity is slower for the run segment.
The intake required by an athlete on an hourly basis can vary from anything between 400ml up to 1.8-litres – it’s a huge variance, so you can’t put a figure on it and tell people how much they should be drinking. The way to do it is to work out your body’s personal needs by weighing yourself before exercising and then weigh yourself again after exercising in those hot conditions, then work out your percentage weight losses and then go from there.
Dave Scott is the first 6x IRONMAN World Champion and a Master Coach of IRONMAN U. As the founder of the Dave Scott Multisport Institute, he dedicates himself to making triathletes of all levels faster and more efficient. Learn more at www.davescottinc.com