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Issues with competing in hot climates

Most British athletes relish the opportunity to compete or train in hot climates! However, there are some challenges that you need to be aware of, especially endurance and team sports athletes.

Acclimation

This is the process where physiological adaptations to heat stress occur through ‘artificial’ methods. This strategy occurs in preparation for travel to a hot climate. If budget is not restricted, this is best achieved with 8-12 sessions of about 60-90 minutes of exercise 2-3 days apart in an environmental chamber. Additional strategies include exercising in warm layers of clothing or sweat vests.

Acclimatisation

This is the process where physiological adaptations occur from natural environmental stressors. Those of us well accustomed to cold weather would benefit from a period of time adjusting to the hot conditions before competing. Spending some time in the heat, out of air-conditioned environments can assist this process. Frequent training sessions adjusted for intensity and duration over a ~10 day period prior to competition will help the body adapt to the new conditions. Monitoring hydration status is vital and adequate hydration levels are essential for your body to adapt to the new conditions.

Warm-up routine

You may need to adjust your warm-up routine to reduce the risk of overheating. Possible modifications include reducing the amount of clothing worn, taking frequent breaks out of direct sunlight, reducing the length of the warm-up and allowing an extended period of time before completing the warm up and competition to take on fluids and reduce core body temperature.

Hydration

Extra fluid intake may be necessary. Allow frequent breaks in training to consume fluids and be diligent about your fluid intake throughout the day. Cool drinks may be more palatable and drinks containing electrolytes will aid fluid absorption and rehydration.

Cooling strategies

To ensure your core body temperature remains within safe limits, cooling strategies may improve performance and reduce the risk of attaining a critical core temperature. Icy towels, cool showers or baths, icy drinks, and cooling areas such as the neck and hands may be strategies to reduce the risk of heat related illness or boost performance.

Awareness of possible heat related illnesses

There are potentially very dangerous health risks associated with exercising in the heat. Health risks include minor conditions such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, fainting and confusion.  More severe conditions include heat stroke.