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Heat, Clothing & Your Sportive/racing/training Performance:
Heat, Clothing & Your Sportive/Racing/Training Performance:By Guy Watson : British Cycling Level 2 Coach:
Suppose I could tell you about something that could take 1-2 hours off of your Etape time? - I've got your attention right!
Remember all of the fuss surrounding Paula Radcliffe when she had to abandon the Olympic Marathon' She'd been one of the big favorites and prior to the event she had prepared meticulously and yet she failed in her target event. There has been a lot of speculation as to why she quit but I recently attended a lecture hosted by Professor Mike Tipton that opened up my eyes as to how important clothing and heat regulation is to performance.
Mike Tipton is Professor of Human and Applied Physiology at University of Portsmouth and is The World Expert in survival in extreme environments and has developed training programs for the SAS - all very interesting but not exactly relevant to cycling I thought' - how wrong I was!
The introduction to the lecture outlined how man fits into his environment, with reference to the facts that only 30% of The Earth is land, and of that land, 65% is uninhabitable. The point of all this information was to emphasise that, without the inventions of clothing and housing, humans would still be living in a narrow strip either side of the Equator. The normal body temperature for a healthy human is 37 deg. C - and we can't tolerate more than a few degrees either side of that before becoming very ill - there are not many places on the planet that stay at 37 degrees all year round! So believe it or not, Europe is an extreme environment for humans to live in - and cycle in.
We are all pretty familiar with the way body does everything possible to regulate our internal temperature, from sweating and shivering if we are slightly under / over dressed - right through to collapse, coma and death if you are having a particularly bad day! What sportsmen often forget to consider that, this regulation process places additional loads on an already stressed body. If you are after maximum performance - or just want to ride at the same speed more comfortably - the more you can help the body regulate it's temperature, the more energy will be available for the actual activity.
Now comes the important part - we all should know the dangers of hypo & hyper thermia - they are DEFINITELY A RISK TO BE CONSIDERED in your next Sportive, Etape or Fondo and I will outline the dangers in a moment - but what about the sliding scale of how your performance is affected in between the two extremes of too hot and too cold' As sportsmen we are always looking at ways of squeezing that little bit extra out of ourselves - we train hard, try to control our body weight, take supplements, spend a fortune on equipment - what about clothing' Have you ever thought about how much slower you will go if you are wearing one layer too much or too less clothing'
The problem is we never really see a detrimental effect because unless we are really pushing it, our bodies just let us get on with it. If we go out training in shorts and short sleeves on a spring day when it really is a bit too chilly, we just push a bit harder too stay warm and get home with no real harm done. Try that on a ride of more than a few hours and you will start to become hypothermic. So just because you can go out and ride with clothing that isn't't quite suitable for the conditions ' it doesn't mean that you are not paying a price for it ' you simply will not be performing at our best because your body is having to compensate for your poor choice of clothing ' this uses up valuable resources that could be used for making your bike move faster. So forget the tough guy attitude if you are serious about your training.
Even with the form of your life and everything perfect, the Etape is going to push your body hard.
After Pace Judgment and Nutrition/hydration, doing all you can to help the body maintain its optimum temperature will have the biggest effect on your performance. And as Paula Radcliffe found out, if it is a hot day, temperature regulation will be THE major factor. Professor Mike Tipton went as far to suggest that her choice to wear that baseball cap could have just pushed her body over the edge.
Some Interesting Facts:
Nuclear/Biological Protection Suit,) death would occur in around 4 hours
Clothing choice for a sportive event:
I have used extremes to illustrate what I am trying to say but the main message that I want to get across is that in between, there is massive scope to increase your performance by using intelligent choices of clothing. It can be assumed that in the Pyrenees in July, heat is going to be a major factor but don't forget the cold. Cycling is unique in that one minute you can be over heating on a climb and the next you can be chilled on a descent - so try to buy the best cycling specific clothing that you can get hold of. Your ideal choice of bike wear needs to be able to cope with the temperature extremes that you can reasonably expect and be adaptable enough to allow you to be comfortable in the variations in between.
Minimum List (Ideal Conditions):
Professor Mike Tipton worked with British Cycling at the Athens Olympics. One of the first things he did was to ban the use of pre-cooling ice jackets. You may have seen our rowers and other cycling nations strutting around in body-warmer-type jackets stuffed with ice packs.
What Mike Tipton knew was that hardly any cooling effect takes place when the coolant acts on the trunk and chest. So while the other nations were mainly just posing, all the British Cycling Team just relaxed in loungers with hands placed in buckets of water on either side and got twice the cooling effect due to the array of veins and arteries in the hands and wrists.