Tuesday, July 3, 2012

If you can't stand the heat...buy a cooling vest!

Regardless of where you live in the USA I'm sure you've been experiencing the Heat of the Summer recently.  Unless you live in Anchorage, Alaska...it's HOT!  Stinking Hot! 

I'm also sure you've all heard the time-worn expression, "if you can't stand the heat..get out of the kitchen".  For me, that's pretty much my motto when it comes to training in the heat of the Summer.  And, I normally "get out of the kitchen".  If/when I train in the Summer it's normally done in the early morning hours or at night (with a light)...to beat the heat.  If I can't train in the cooler hours of the day, I'll retreat to my cool basement and workout on the trainer for an hour..or so.  But, one thing I will NOT do and that is train during the mid-day heat.  For me, it's more physiological than psychological.  When I'm hot and working out, I sweat like a pig..and no matter how much I hydrate myself..the sun just has a way of baking my brain..and putting me down for the count.  I just can't seem to re-hydrate quickly enough. 

There are articles upon articles written about the physiological effects of heat and its effects on power output.  There is no doubt that heat will quickly zap power.  So, what are you to do as an athlete when you're faced with a choice of a) training outside in 100F temps where you know your max power output will be way down or b) training inside in 70F basement temps where you know your max power output will be reached?  This was a recent question asked of one of the athletes I coach.  I know what I would do, and that is opt for choice b) above.  That's because "mentally" I hate the heat..and physiologically (as forementioned) my body doesn't deal with it very well.  Additionally, if I train indoors in the cooler temps I'll be able to apply higher loads/force to my muscles.  And, isn't that how we get stronger?  Don't we increase the load and let our body adapt to it?  At least that's how I see it.  But, rather than give the athlete my opinion, without any data to support it, I figured I'd ask my mentor, Hunter Allen to see what he thought.  This is what Hunter said, " It’s a tough balance and part of that balance is the mental aspect. If you stick him on the trainer, then it will be mentally challenging more so than the heat in my opinion, unless he’s just one of those nuts that loves the trainer!  Tell him to ride when it’s coolest and do the best he can.  When it’s super hot, give him the option for riding indoors."
I agree with Hunter..ride when it's coolest.  But, what if you can't..and what if you just don't like the trainer?  Well, there is another option and that is to buy and train/ride with a cooling vest.  There are a bunch of cooling vests designed specifically for cyclists: Kul Lite, Sta Coolvest, Hyperkewl, Cooline, Fros-Tcooling, etc.  They range in price from $50 to $300.  I haven't had time to research which is the best bang for the buck..but I'm sure it's only a matter of time when I do.  You can use the vest for warming up for a race and take it off BEFORE you race.  Or, you can leave it on for the race.  You can also use the vest for other sports such as: fishing, motorcycling, running, etc. 
I'll post a future blog on which vest I think is the best bang for the buck- for cyclists.  If anyone out there trains with one (or races with one) let me know which brand you have and how you like it.  I'm interested in knowing.
Until then, stay Cool.  Power ON!  Coach Rob

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