Thermoregulation: the maintenance or regulation of temperature – Meriam-Webster
Thermoregulation is a process that allows the body to maintain its core temperature in a state of equilibrium. While it is important to maintain this in both cold and hot environments, I want to offer some strategies specifically for training and racing in hot environments. As warm temps continue to extend into late summer and early fall, effective heat thermoregulation is a key to maximizing your performance.
There are four main mechanisms to aid thermoregulation:
- Sweating – cools your skin as it evaporates
- Vasodilation – allows the blood vessels to expand which increases blood flow to the skin where it is cooler through heat radiation
- Conduction – physical contact
- Convection – cooling through air flow; think a nice breeze on the bike or run
While the body can work to thermoregulate itself through sweating, excessive heat stress causes fatigue which will ultimately have a negative impact on performance. Beyond knowing your sweat rate and applying an effective fueling & hydration strategy as highlighted in D3 specialty coach Nick Suffredin’s Extra Mile article, here are my go-to strategies to aid thermoregulation:
- Wear an ice vest or place a cold towel on your head or around your neck before the start of a race. You may have seen this strategy being employed at the US Track and Field Olympic trials and in the Tokyo Olympics by athletes this summer.
- For IM events, consider placing a frozen bottle of your favorite electrolyte drink in your bike and/or run special needs bag. This is super refreshing midway through a race!
- Squirt water from an aid station through the vents of your bike helmet, over your shoulders and on your legs during the bike segment. This assumes the bottle you are being given is cold.
- Pour cold water or use sponges over your head and shoulders during the run.
- Carry a cooling towel on the run.
- Put ice over your head and down your race kit.
- Carry an old sock you can fill with ice to use between aid stations on the run. You can wrap it around your neck or wrist. One of my D3 athletes pictured here, Isaac Tyson, introduced this creative strategy to me when he raced at IM Coeur d’Alene Idaho this year where they saw record high temps into the triple digits. According to Isaac, “I would definitely recommend using a small/ankle sock and not a long tube sock. Even the small ankle sock I used stretched out a lot when wet and held plenty of ice!”
Coach Brad Seng enjoys working with athletes of all abilities who set a variety of personal goals. He understands difficult training days. Challenging days and subpar workouts are inevitably part of the triathlon landscape, as are the times when you’re feeling great and everything clicks. He believes there are lessons to be learned from experiencing both. Sometimes having to fight for a workout is just what’s needed to achieve an important breakthrough in mental conditioning.