Heat Training: For Warm and Cool Climates
Long term exposure to a stressor generally elicits adaptation to that stressor at or below a given intensity. Training in the heat provides an adaptive response to exercise in the heat, with new research emerging highlighting increased adaptation in cooler conditions also.
Completing targeted bouts of intensive exercise generally forces positive adaptation toward intensive exercise. Increases in Vo2 max, threshold power, thermoregulation etc are all indicative of some of the adaptive processes that occur. However completing such forms of exercise in hot environments have been shown to increase intensive performance in hot and cool environments.
The first adaptations to heat acclimatisation occur within 3-6days. Primary adaptive responses include increases in plasma volume of the blood, allowing more blood to flow to the extremities of the body to better assist in cooling the body when exercising strenuously. Other adaptive responses also include reduced sweating response and electrolyte secretion, increased water retention capability and even a potential increase in red-cell volume (oxygen carrying capacity in the blood). Some of these adaptive response are shown to decrease the required HR for a given power output, increase the maximum amount of work completed and increase the efficiency of work completed all facilitating a more economical human work rate.
Traditionally these heat acclimatisation responses have been applied to racing or competing in the heat, however emerging evidence shows training in the heat can increase performance in normal or cool conditions. The mechanisms of this increased performance at normal temperatures after Heat acclimation include: increase in red blood cell, increased skin blood flow (for cooling), decreases in core temperature for a given work rate, lower HR for a given output, increased oxygen uptake, decreased oxygen requirement for a sub-maximal output (economy) increased lactate threshold, decreased carbohydrate utilisation, strength increases.
Training in the heat has been cited to increase performance benefits at cool conditions by the tune of 4%-6% and increase time to exhaustion by 32-44%.
It should also be mentioned that training in excessively hot environments that elicit core temperatures at or above 40.6c can impact negatively on human performance adaptations, thus controlling the environment via trained individuals can facilitate optimal adaptation for the athlete. Simply training with the fan off in a warm room could be counter-productive.
These findings provide evidence to the importance of structured training in hot environments for both racing in hot and cool conditions. Importantly these services are now available to the entire endurance athlete community in a measured controlled environment every Saturday morning.
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