Heat Battle – Cool Tips for Road Cycling in Summer

09.07.2020

Heat stresses our organism! Therefore, if you want to keep cool and prevent your body from overheating on your bike, even at really high temperatures and in glaring sunlight, our tips on training, nutrition and health for cycling in the heat of summer will help you.

Right timing for training

If you want to train properly even in hot midsummer weather, shift your training to the cooler hours of the day if possible. In the early morning or late afternoon the sun’s rays hit the ground flatter and the sun doesn’t beat down quite so mercilessly anymore.

If your daily obligations make such a shift impossible, do at least reduce the intensity of your training sessions and ride in the shade as much as possible.

The organism loses water and “salt” in the heat

Cyclists notice the sweat loss not quite as much as runners, as the wind carries away the emitted fluids quickly. Therefore, drink a lot and above all drink sensibly when it is hot, i.e. water with a dash of sodium or a special sports drink. 

Water loss of up to two percent of body weight leads to reduced performance, which can be recognized by the following symptoms: sudden thirst, fatigue. Thirst, goose bumps, slight muscle cramps.

If even more fluid is lost, the risk of heat exhaustion arises: the cyclist feels a sharp drop in performance. In addition, blood pressure drops, and irritability increases with every kilometre.

Acclimatisation makes you more efficient

Road cyclists should acclimatize for races, which take place in the afternoon heat. Experts recommend to start with it at least seven to ten days ahead of the race, to train for at least 90 minutes in a correspondingly hot environment and to gradually increase the intensity.

The body can adapt to heat and cold, but it takes some time to get used to it in order to perform at its best in extreme conditions.

Perfect sun protection for the skin

Beware of sunburn! It is not only the late effects that make sunburn so dangerous. The organism reacts to such skin damage the same way it would react to an inflammation. It activates its immune system and thus weakens other areas.

Therefore, always apply sunscreen! In order to prevent the sunscreen from being sweated off and getting into the eyes where it burns use special lotions and gels that are sweat resistant.

Sun protection should be applied generously, because the stated sun protection factor and the resulting protection time are theoretical values that assume a consistent application thickness.

It is advisable to apply sunscreen several times a day and pay special attention to exposed areas such as ears and nose, but also to the neck and the back of the knees.

The skin is exposed to strong friction there which makes the sunscreen smear off quickly. If you ride in the mountains, you should opt for a higher sun protection factor. UV radiation increases by around 20 percent per 1,000 meters of altitude.

First aid for heat stroke

When heat, strong sunlight, dehydration and overexertion make the head boil over, the immediate remedy is rest and cooling. In case of heat stroke, place the patient in the shade to rest, carefully cool arms and legs with cold water and give him or her something to drink. Afterwards, if possible, ride home slowly and carefully, drink enough, eat and sleep it off.

Precooling – start from a cool environment

To prevent your body from heating up too quickly, it is clever to start your tour from the coolness of the shade instead of having spent the whole day at the outdoor pool. If you want to train intensively or even race, you can also put on special cooling vests shortly before the ride to keep the body core temperature low.

It cools the skin but not the muscles. Apart from an improved well-being, the body temperature does not rise so quickly. Since the skin needs less blood due to the cooling, the muscles have more at their disposal and performance improves.

The right clothing for the heat

When choosing their outfit cyclists should make sure that the material and the cut (body mapping) of the jersey and the undershirt distribute sweat over a wide area. Only then can the sweat “evaporate” and the desired evaporation cold is created.

Good to know: Particularly light summer jerseys with large-pored honeycombs do not offer very good “mechanical” protection against UV radiation. It is therefore advisable to also apply sunscreen underneath such jerseys if you wear them without an undershirt.

Beware of the “irritant gas” ozone

The German Federal Environment Agency assumes that about 10 to 15 percent of the population is particularly sensitive to ozone – especially when sunlight is strong, and the weather is hot. Ozone is an irritant gas that can cause a sore throat, dry cough, burning eyes, headaches, lack of concentration and reduced performance on hot days.

It is produced especially when strong sunlight is combined with exhaust fumes. Since endurance athletes breathe deeper and faster due to the physical stress, especially during intensive sessions, even low concentrations are sufficient to trigger the symptoms. Tip: train in the morning or evening and ride a lot through the forest.

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