When your big dream is to become a triathlete at any age, the weather and outdoor temperatures will become foremost in your mind.
Hot and cold weather workouts require preparation. It is critical to know your body’s individual physical reaction to extreme weather temperatures and how you need to prepare for your body’s physiological response while exercising.
This past week in California heatwave temperatures exceeded 100 degrees by 10:00 a.m. The sweltering heat was a reminder to always prepare my body for fitness performance in severe weather conditions.
Your first priority, of course, is keeping yourself safe.
8 Weather Adapting Triathlon Climate Preparation Tips:
Sometimes even the most logical ways to adapt to weather conditions can leave us in unfamiliar workout scenarios. Keep these tips in mind when the temperatures are uncomfortable.
1. Dress for the weather.
Not only does this make sense for your day-wear, but truly applies to what you wear for your outdoor workout. Choosing materials that help wick away sweat, or cotton/poly blend loose fitting clothes. The cool feeling you get when you sweat is actually your sweat evaporating.
Keep away from anything that absorbs sweat in hot and cold weather. Consider where layers are important (lower body) and use only clothes that can easily be tied around your waist.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate.
Sweating more means replacing that water in your body to make sure you avoid exhaustion, heat-related cramps or heat stroke. Take your water bottle with you and keep sipping as you go. Small amounts of water more often will help you more than downing a full bottle in the middle of your workout.
While you are thinking about hydration, stick to water. Sports drinks and other sugar-based drinks will not help you replace what you will be sweating out. Pedialyte is the only “sports drink” I recommend.
3. Pick the right time of day.
If you are not competing, be smart and pick a time of day that isn’t blazing hot or extremely cold. Mornings or evenings are better choices. Midday heat is asking for potential extra stress on your body, so plan your hot weather workout around the location of the sun. During cold weather running when the sun is closest during the day helps replenish vitamin D levels.
4. Start off slow.
Letting your body acclimate to the heat or cold weather for just a few minutes at a time will let you know how much of a weather workout you can handle. If you usually run, start walking and see how you feel for the first minute or two.
You’ll notice that you will start sweating earlier, which is a sign your body is adapting. More sweat means you cool off faster, so that’s a good thing!
5. Seek out protection.
Of course, running in the shade on a hot day or running on an indoor track when it’s snowing feels great but you won’t have these luxuries when you are competing in a triathlon. Run and bike in as much shade as you can on hot days along with sunscreen, visor and sunglasses. Cold weather protection requires clothing that dries quickly.
6. Temperature regulation.
If you are out in the heat, you may need to cool off quick.
Run cold water over your forearms to help reduce body temp. You can do this in public areas by taking advantage of drinking fountains or restrooms. Spray bottles give you a nice spritz that when you fan your skin helps you cool down fast. Wrap the back of your neck or forearms with instant ice-packs.
If you are out in the cold, you may need to protect your body temperature.
Duct tape can be your new best friend. Use it to cover vents in your helmet or any place where your gear leaves a gap where cold can enter. Gloves and arm sleeves help too. Just be sure to pre-test them for comfort and flexibility. Reusable heat packs can help warm parts of your body on the run.
7. Stay near people.
Being with a small group is a good idea as long as you maintain your speed. You can break away in the last part of the competition. If you aren’t paying attention the signs and symptoms of exhaustion, they can appear fast. Fainting is one symptom so be around people who know what’s happened to you.
8. Know trouble signs.
Hot weather will raise your body core temperature so keep an eye on heat exhaustion side effects. If you are feeling any of these coming on stop and check in with yourself:
√ Unexpected muscle cramps
√ Nausea or vomiting
√ A headache
√ Cool, moist skin
Watching for these signs will help avoid the more serious heat stroke issues. Don’t mess around with heat stroke and if you are feeling these symptoms, find help.
√ No sweating with dry, hot skin
√ Weak pulse that is very fast
√ Body temperature over 105°F
During cold weather races, if you are feeling any of these coming on stop and check in with yourself:
√ Signs of frostbite: burning feeling on the skin; tingling that won’t stop; itchy skin; skin becomes hard; numbness and pain.
√ Uncontrollable shivering.
Weather can be a challenge during a triathlon. Pre-training in all weather conditions helps prepare you for what to expect on race day.
It never fails that race day weather can throw a curve-ball with the unexpected. You will want to push yourself during a race, but during training is when you can work on improving workout out in the heat and in the cold and make adjustments before the big day.
Heather Montgomery is a fitness writer, triathlete, and blogger who is devoted to sharing what she has learned about becoming a triathlete after age 40. She uses her Metabolic Training Certification to help other women struggling to get fit in mid-life. She lives and trains in Santa Rosa, California, the new home of the Ironman triathlon. You can find her biking the Sonoma County wine trails.