By Ben Day
If you can get a leg up on your competitors (or mates) in these scenarios, your odds of succeeding are greater than ever, as so many athletes aren’t focused on the weather. Being correctly prepared can preserve your health too.
Here are some of my best tips for dealing with extreme weather.
Riding in the Cold
Let’s start with the cold. Performing in cold conditions is more a matter of good choices than adaptation. Yes, spending time training and racing consistently in cold temperatures will enable you to perform at a higher level, because you’ll be are able to maintain core body temperature better and muscular contractions won’t be negatively affected.
But it’s the clothing you choose in cold weather that can be the difference between winning and not finishing – or between being comfortable and getting hypothermia.
Look after your extremities and cover up!
Your extremities are your feet, hands and head. Keeping these bits all covered and warm is vital. Exposed skin is the most susceptible to damage from extreme weather.
Layer your clothing, starting with a good base layer, and the sweat that you generate will be wicked away from your skin to the surface, keeping you warmer and drier. Take layers on and off as you get colder or warmer to regulate your temperature. This is a skill that might take some practice.
From the extreme heat, to the extreme cold – wearing layers, keeping your extremities warm and staying dry are all key.
I’m not sure if it was the Belgians who came up with this idea, but they have heat cream for the legs so effective that you feel like you could cook an egg!
Keeping your legs warm helps to maintain efficient muscular contraction. Just be careful not to accidentally get this cream where it might not feel so pleasant (tip: do your chamois cream first!). And be ready for it to burn in the shower when you wash it off!
This can be the difference between staying healthy and chilling to the bone. High-tech fabrics, such as Nano Flex, are designed to wick the sweat from your skin to your outer layers where it is then evaporated – negating that nasty windchill you can get on your chest when you’re sweating in the cold.
Wet vs. Dry
Choose the right clothing for the conditions. When it’s cold but dry, using fleecy top clothing that’s warm and breathable is best. When it’s cold and wet, you need to keep that water out. Look for water-repellent rain jackets that don’t hold or let in water.
Whatever the weather, you’re better safe than sorry. Taking that one extra jacket, even if it’s a light wind jacket, is excellent security.
Riding in the heat
Riding in hot conditions is a little trickier to get right than riding in cold – mainly because you can only take off so many clothes to regulate your heat.
Once your core temperature goes past a certain level, your brain will choose survival over performance. Your output will start to decrease as your body redirects your blood to perform cooling duties.
With this in mind, there has been a lot of research on what you can do to minimise the effect.
Spending a period of 10 to 14 days in hot environments sees a change in your blood plasma levels, which helps core temperature regulation.
In recent years, it’s become common for elite athletes to use a sauna in the training process as they come into the summer races. Stressing the body in this manner is similar to how you might train out on the road. Your body is challenged so it adapts to become stronger and more efficient at handling the heat.
What you wear plays a part and it’s obvious in this scenario that you want the lightest clothing possible. It’s is a matter of balance between covering up to keep the sun off and keeping your garments light and breathable.
You’re crazy if you don’t wear it. Yes, I’m an Aussie and skin cancer is a common cause of death in Australia, but if you need another argument; when your skin burns, your core temperature rises and you can overheat – use sunscreen to stop this from happening.
Keeping your fluids up, and ideally with an electrolyte solution, it’ll keep your motor running cooler. As you become dehydrated, your core temperature will once again go up. On very hot days, it is impossible to ingest enough fluid to maintain hydration when you’re exercising, so it needs 24/7 effort and awareness.
Observe your urine and don’t be afraid of alternating between the electrolyte solution and water. If what you’re drinking is passing straight through you, increase your sports drink intake. It not, keep up both water and the sports drink.
OK, they’re packed full of sugar, but frozen slushy drinks have been proven to be the best non-invasive way to keep your core temperature down. The best way to make them is to combine blended ice with your favourite electrolyte solution, and companies such as Polar Bottle and Camelbak make insulated water bottles that keep your cold drinks colder and your hot drinks hotter for longer.
Do not underestimate the importance of negotiating these weather conditions correctly. Asides from affecting your performance, extreme weather can actually threaten your life.
Plan ahead and give yourself the best chances for success.
This article originally appeared on Bikeradar.com