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How to Weather Uncomfortable Training Days

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What to do when Mother Nature rains on your training parade.

by Jason Lentzke

Let's face it, the path to meeting your goals isn't always adorned with perfect training days and personal bests. Training and racing for endurance events always comes with obstacles and mental and physical peaks and valleys. 

One thing I like to tell my athletes is never get too high or too low. Sure, you might have pushed more watts in that evening group ride than in your last five races, but let's not start calling you Chris Froome just yet. I follow this advice up with a "just keep moving forward" attitude—just like they'll have to do on race day itself. Have a plan, embrace the challenges, and think constant positive thoughts.

Regardless of where you're based or where your next race is located, there’s a good chance you’re going to have to endure demanding weather conditions of some sort along the way. Read on for a crash course in heat, humidity, and precipitation (the kind that won't have you strapping on snowshoes.)

Mercury rising

If you’re training for a warm-weather event, it’s ideal to train outdoors in the same conditions you’ll be facing on race day. This will give your body an opportunity to acclimate before the event and achieve proper sweat rate and blood plasma adaptations.

Additionally, it’s an opportunity to dial in your fueling and hydration strategy to set yourself up for your best race. To race well, you need an established and tested fueling plan. To do this, set a base line sweat rate by performing a sweat test. Once you have your results, you’ll have your calculated sodium losses and estimate carbohydrate requirements.

Keep in mind that every individual has an upper limit for the amount of carbohydrate they can ingest and absorb per hour. The key is to identify your optimal absorption rate in training so that you are maximizing your performance potential on race day.

The next step is training your stomach and digestive system to tolerate gels, salt pills, sports drinks, and bars. Use the results of your sweat test to dial in your fueling strategy at least three months prior to race day. Train your gut to tolerate fuel at all intensities to reduce the risk of GI distress on race day.

Lastly, training in the heat is much easier when you’re at an ideal body composition for your gender and age. Excess body fat has a major impact on sweat rate and heat dissipation when the mercury really starts rising. This isn't an easy journey to take on your own, however—consult with a Board Certified Sports Dietitian to get a better idea on what your ideal body composition for race day may be.  

Saunas and steam rooms

Dry heat will affect your rate of perceived exertion, heart rate, and pace similarly to humid conditions, but the higher temperature may affect your nutrition differently. Typically, it’s more challenging for our digestive system to break down solid foods in extremely dry and hot temperatures, so try to get as many calories as you can in liquid form.

In the humidity, most of your blood is going to your skin to attempt to cool your body and not to your digestive system, so don’t make your body work any harder than it needs to! If your digestive system has a little less work to do, you’ll probably have a much better GI experience.

Extremely humid conditions throw us another curveball: Our bodies cool themselves during the sweat evaporation process. The air is filled with excess water vapor in humid conditions, so your sweat won’t evaporate very efficiently. Why is this an issue? Essentially, it makes sweating a less effective way for your body to attempt to reduce its core temperature in humid conditions.

Whether you’re facing dry or humid heat, know that your breathing will be labored, your pace and power numbers will drop, and your nutritional demands will increase. Adjusting your goals and expectations accordingly, and going into the race with a sound, practiced fueling plan will help set you up for optimal performance on the big day. 

Raining cats and dogs

Cycling events are held in a wide variety of places that are no strangers to precipitation. Both warm and cold rain can pop up at any moment along your next century ride, whether you're racing in the Sunshine Coast or Hamburg. The omnipresence of monsoons during certain times of the year can make every ride a gamble for some athletes.

As long as you take a few essential precautions, however, rain is nothing that needs to end your training session prematurely. (Note, always use common sense and if you lack visibility or see lightning, pull over immediately to seek shelter.) Below are a few of my favorite tips for training in the rain:

→ Always ride with a high powered rear red light. When the rain picks up you will me much more likely to be seen.

→ If you know it’s going to be a steady rain, pull over and tap your presta valve two to three times to reduce the air pressure. This will give you a little more traction in wet conditions.

→ Remember that you'll need a bit more time to stop and turn, so be sure to clear debris from your brakes and rims by feathering your brakes when braking.

→Avoid road paint, puddles (you don’t know what’s underneath!), sand, oil, and gravel. These hazards are extremely slick in wet conditions and it’s very easy to lose traction.

→ Ride with clear or amber colored lenses to keep your eyes protected and improve optics.

→ Lastly, be sure to wipe down, clean and lube your bike after a day in the rain. A clean bike is a fast bike!

For more cycling-specific safety tips, visit velothon.com/cyclesmart.

Jason Lentzke is the owner of Toro Performance in Phoenix, AZ.

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