During the Vuelta a España, we speak with coach Elliot Lipsky from UCI WorldTeam QHUBEKA NextHash. Elliot explains how the team has been implementing heat training for acclimatization purposes, the role of CORE on it, and how he says the future of core body temperature monitoring technologies for sports performance.
You have been using the CORE Body Technology for a while, what has attracted you to this to this technology?
Understanding the effects of body temperature and thermoregulation on performance is nothing new. It is well understood that in extreme environments, or when an individuals core temperature strays too far from the norm, performance suffers.
It is also well understood that an athlete, well prepared to perform in hot and humid environments will likely out-perform someone with more talent and skill if they have not prepared effectively.
The struggle we have always had is access to this information, on an individual level, all the time. Rectal thermometers, or temperature pills are not practical for a professional cyclist to include within a training or racing regime! With the CORE sensor we have an accurate, and inconspicuous device that gives us the information we require, when we require it.
Now it is up to us to make it useful for the athlete. I can draw a parallel with a power meter. When the power meter was first invented, it had the potential to revolutionise training, however, it was extremely expensive, cumbersome and difficult to fit on a race bike. Once the technology improved and more manufacturers produced power meters, access to a larger market was provided. However, without understanding the what's, why's and how's, the information is useless. 300 watts is 300 watts, but what does it mean to an individual, why is it important and how will they be able to utilise that information to perform better.
How do you feel you will be using this technology moving forward?
There are 'easy' wins and longer term projects in which we can utilise the CORE sensor and support network going forward. The 'easy' wins are things like better targeted acute heat acclimation strategies, or cooling strategies to implement around training and racing. With longer, more chronic training and acclimatisation strategies and projects coming thereafter.
Can you share an overview how a heat training program looks for your athletes? What are the steps and time-frame for this?"
It does vary per individual and their own constraints and goals. But if we take a rider that already lives in a relatively warm environment, in-season (e.g. Western Europe in June/July). We would initially start with the CORE heat-stress test, I find this an easy way to set some boundaries and give the athlete an initial understanding of how their core temperature responds to exercise and the warm environment, as well as perceived exertion and heat strain.
If we are short on time prior to an event, we would include one session per day for 5-10 days of 60-90 minutes. However, if we have a longer build-up phase, we would reduce this to 3-4 sessions per week of a similar duration. Typically the heat training session would involve the rider increasing his Tcore upto the 'threshold' (typically ≥38.5C) and maintaining for ±30 minutes. The whole process of the ramp and steady state would take around 60 minutes.
Following this, they head out on an endurance ride, starting with a light intensity. This will prolong the 'time in the zone' of the core temperature, at least for the first 30-90 minutes of the road ride part of the training. If we do include heat training on days that also includes specific intervals, we prioritise the training with hard efforts first, then finish the session with a heat training protocol. Mostly, the rider will complete the heat training at home on their indoor trainer, in a controlled environment.
Speaking generally about different athletes, do you find that they all behave similarly with regard to thermoregulation or is it individual?
No. The response is same, however, the rate of change is individual. Typically, our athletes already elicit some form of moderate heat acclimation due to the nature of riding ~25 hours per week with an increased Tcore. However, depending on where they train there might be some individual differences into how 'adapted' one is prior to starting with specific heat training sessions.
Generally speaking, the smaller athletes tend to require slightly longer period of heat training or heat acclimation to see the benefits, compared to our larger athletes.
How have the insights from the CORE sensor impacted the way you approach rider cooling and planning for races and race-day?
When it comes to thermoregulation in-race, we typically have a set protocol, which the athletes follow, depending on the need to regulate their temperature. This is typically cool drinks to be ingested and ice-socks to be put on the back of the neck in the race. This is a protocol that has been around for a long time. Using the CORE sensor enables the cyclists to anticipate this cooling ahead of time. Understanding and being able to visualise their body's response enables them to make better informed decisions when in a race.