Training is actually simple, you are preparing yourself in many different ways to be able to compete as well as you can. Heat Training is no different and it can be easily integrated into an existing training program.
The fundamental question, "Why do Heat Training?" can be answered easily. When you get hot, your threshold power drops. Your body spends more energy trying to cool and there is less energy available which impacts performance.
With Heat Training, you increase your core body temperature during your workouts and over time 'condition' yourself to become more effective at cooling and also to generate more power when you are hot.
Often athletes undertake a type of Heat Training called Heat Adaption (also known as Heat Acclimation) in order to prepare for a competitive event in a hot environment. One way this is approached is by moving to a hot region before the competition. But Heat Adaption can also follow a more structured approach with planned heat exposure during training which is specifically designed to trigger a physiological change. In The Science of Heat Training we outline this in further detail.
In an era of high-performance sports, Heat Training is also a sporting strategy which can be used to trigger the physiological benefit in order to have an edge over competitors when racing in mild and cooler climates as well. This is similar, in concept, to altitude training although it is also a topic of ongoing debate among sports scientists.
Heat Training and Safety
Before starting with any form of Heat Training, it is advised to first seek guidance from medical professionals and experienced coaches to ensure that this can be conducted safely.
Effective Heat Training relies on predefined limits which are individual to each person and help keep athletes within a safe temperature range during training and these limits should not be exceeded.
Heat training is one part of training where ‘too much’ is bad and can be dangerous. If an athlete tries to train with a core body temperature that is too high, this can result in poorer overall performance as the body seeks to protect itself, so controlled heat training is better.
The Basics of Heat Training
Athletes usually begin with a Heat Training Block, this is a 2 - 4 week concentrated schedule of intensive Heat Training Workouts.
This Heat Training Block conditions the body and afterwards the athletes need to keep this 'topped up' with 2 - 4 Heat Training Workouts integrated into their regular training schedule.
The good news is that there are a lot of opportunities to adapt or incorporate Heat Training Workouts into an existing training program and minimise the disruption.
A single Heat Training Workout is designed to keep the athletes within a safe Heat Training Zone - a predefined temperature range. The duration of a typical Heat Training Workout is 45 - 60 minutes within the Heat Training Zone. This can be extended up to 90 minutes and incorporated with other training workouts. As an example, after HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) then athlete is hot already and the adjusts their temperature and remains in their Heat Training Zone.
If an athlete trains too cold, this won’t trigger the desired physiological reaction and if they train too hot, it can be counter-productive and impact fatigue performance and recovery.
For more details on Heat Training, further information is available on the page Heat Training for Sporting Performance.
The Right Heat Training Environment
The good news with Heat Training is that is can be conducted in various ways such as in a controlled environment like a climate chamber, in a home training environment and also outdoors.
A controlled environment that is heated is a cost intensive option but has an advantage of having better control.
An easy and convenient alternative is an indoor training environment which can be at home. For this, all air-flow is stopped, no fans are used (until the Heat Training Zone is reached) and warmer winter clothing is worn to slow the natural body cooling.
Similarly for outdoor riding, athletes can 'overdress' in winter sportswear that contains the heat. Although outdoor conditions and varying wind speeds (which impacts cooling) make it harder to control.
In all circumstances, athletes need to ensure that they remain within their Heat Training Zone and avoid overheating. This also means that during Heat Training, power / pace is adjusted (and typically starts to fall) as athletes seek to remain in their heat training zone.
Heat Training Data and Metrics
By monitoring the core body temperature in real-time, an athlete can train and remain within their personal Heat Training Zone. The CORE Body Temperature monitor provides accurate data in real-time which can be displayed on sports devices and smart phones. Ingested e-pills and rectal thermometers are also accurate though require the ability to display real-time metrics during training.
Other thermometers such as skin temperature thermometers, InfraRed or Tympanic (in-ear) thermometers are not considered suitably accurate while skin temperature measurements are not a suitable guide for Heat Training.
During Heat Training, the core body temperature metrics in ºC or ºF is used as the primary point of orientation and the objective is to remain within the predetermined Heat Training Zone, for example, this may be between 38.4ºC - 38.6ºC.
The Heat Training Zone can be calculated by undertaking a Heat Ramp Test. This optimal zone is between the core body temperature Zone 3 and Zone 4
In contrast to many training workouts, power threshold (pace or speed) becomes a secondary metric when Heat Training is in focus. Even though power is still impacted, athletics should orientate on the core body temperature metrics and heart rate (bpm) instead.
During Heat Training Workouts, the power threshold naturally begins to fall over time while maintaining a constant heart rate. This is normal and athletes should avoid trying to maintain a stable power output, instead adjust power output to keep the core body temperature constant.
Variations in Heat Training
Thermoregulation is quite individual and this opens up the scope to adapt the Heat Training to suit the individual requirements. As one component in a complete training schedule, the Heat Training Workouts can often be incorporated into other training workouts.
Guidance from an experienced coach is recommend to adjust a training program to suit.