We recently interviewed Carles Tur, Head Coach of the Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team. He told us how the team uses CORE for heat training and cooling, and how their decisions are informed by the latest scientific research into sports thermoregulation.
How long have you been using CORE?
I have been using CORE since the first month it was released, I think it was August 2020 if I remember correctly. I saw it and thought it would be a device that would help interpret a lot of the athletes’ physiology and especially adaptations in hot environments.
Where did you use it? We believe you have been working with Olympic Sailing, and also with cyclists and triathletes. Is that correct?
Correct, I used it throughout the previous Olympic cycle of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with the RFEV (Royal Spanish Sailing Federation). With the CORE device we performed the acclimatization protocol of all the sailors. It helped us a lot in the adaptation protocol, as well as analysis of certain training regattas. In competition regattas, its use is prohibited, but the data obtained have been very interesting. It must be said that the whole team, the 15 sailors, arrived very acclimatized to the heat. During the competition they did not suffer much from the weather conditions. I also use it on the Q 36.5 Pro Cycling Team and on several professional and amateur cyclists and triathletes.
Do you determine core temperature thresholds for each rider – a core temp that he tries to stay beneath so that performance does not decline too much? If so, how do you determine those thresholds?
I create an individual temperature threshold for each athlete and see what impact it has on their performance (cardiac drift) as well as their subjective sensation. Another fundamental aspect is to see the response of the skin temperature, a fundamental parameter. Also, the Heat Strain Index and Heat Strain Score helps us to interpret the physiological response of the body. We also look at the equipment and clothing in hydration and cooling protocols, but above all we see acclimatization as the most determining factor in preparation for a competition.
Can you say a little more about how you use the Heat Strain Index and Heat Strain Score?
According to several studies, we know that when the skin temperature rises, it is a parameter that will soon indicate an immediate loss of performance. That will not happen in the same way for the core temperature. So, both the Heat Strain Index and the Heat Strain Score are two parameters that help us understand the relationship of our metabolism to keep the body cool. And in the same way the interpretation of data I think should be individual depending on the acclimatization of each athlete and their degree of tolerance.
How many heat sessions are needed for an athlete to acclimatize for a race?
According to science, with 5 days in men you can get 90% of acclimatization, and in women you need twice as much time. But I consider that this is general data, and each athlete has individualized adaptation times. Some have faster responses than others, which is probably influenced mainly by the genetics of the parents (sweat glands). However, I insist that acclimatization is essential to succeed in competitions with a hostile climate. In short, I believe that acclimatization protocols should be a little longer than science generalizes.
For an athlete who has been doing season-long heat training and is tapering for an important race, how many heat sessions should be done in the week before the race?
What we do is one session, or maybe two at most, for maintenance. It is known that, for a heat acclimated athlete, there will be a 2.5% loss in heat adaption for every cold day. So, depending on the day of the competition we do one or two sessions max. My approach is doing 3 or 4, even 5 weeks of heat training before a race. And we always take it to the end of the season.
Finally, would you like to make some remarks about the value of CORE for coaching athletes?
For me it is a very valuable tool that has helped me to understand certain performance responses in endurance athletes in different situations that before it was more difficult to understand. A curious thing over the years is that in 90% of cases when I have seen a drop in performance, it has been reflected in an increase in the internal temperature of the athlete. We know the human being is an animal that produces mechanical energy inefficiently and a large part – 75% – is transformed into heat energy. Therefore, the relationship between increased internal heat and loss of performance is closely related.