Keeping Your Cool: How To Race Well In The Heat


Summer is great, but performing in the heat can be tough – especially when you’re not adjusted to it. Heat is an issue that effects all levels of athlete and competition, but there are a few proven ways to maximise your performance in hot weather and potentially get an edge on the competition.

The study below from the Australian Institute of Sport is a randomized controlled trial developed to investigate the benefits of pre-cooling strategies for hot and humid environments.

The importance of hydration is exponential in severe heat, and so is the temperature of what you’re consuming. Add crushed ice to your SOS to make a super-charged SOS slushie and enjoy it while wrapped up in a towel that’s been soaked in water then put in the freezer overnight. Unless you’re currently out in the sun, that might sound pretty miserable, but with the weather heating up (in the Northern Hemisphere at least) it will be well worth it.

Australian distance runner Lee Troop with
the pre-cooling ice vest used by many athletes
prior to the 2004 Athens Olympic

Pre-cooling strategy enhances time trial cycling in the heat.

PURPOSE: To develop and investigate the efficacy of a new pre-cooling strategy combining external and internal techniques on the performance of a cycling time trial (TT) in a hot and humid environment.

METHODS: Eleven well-trained male cyclists undertook three trials of a laboratory-based cycling TT simulating the course characteristics of the Beijing Olympic Games event in a controlled hot and humid environment (32°C-35°C at 50%-60% relative humidity). The trials, separated by 3-7 d, were undertaken in a randomized crossover design and consisted of the following: 1) CON-no treatment apart from the ad libitum consumption of cold water (4°C), 2) STD COOL-whole-body immersion in cold (10°C) water for 10 min followed by wearing a cooling jacket, or 3) NEW COOL-combination of consumption of 14 g of ice slurry (“slushie”) per kilogram body mass  while applying iced towels.

RESULTS: There was an observable effect on rectal temperature (T(rec)) before the commencement of the TT after both pre-cooling techniques (STD COOL < NEW COOL < CON, P < 0.05), but pacing of the TT resulted in similar T(rec), HR, and RPE throughout the cycling protocol in all trials. NEW COOL was associated with a 3.0% increase in power (approximately 8 W) and a 1.3% improvement in performance time (approximately 1:06 min) compared with the CON trial, with the true likely effects ranging from a trivial to a large benefit. The effect of the STD COOL trial compared with the CON trial was “unclear.”

CONCLUSIONS: This new pre-cooling strategy represents a practical and effective technique that could be used by athletes in preparation for endurance events undertaken in hot and humid conditions.