Heat Adaptation Protocols for Endurance Athletes

Heat Adaptation Protocols for Endurance Athletes

Turn Up the Heat: Adapting to Hot Triathlon Races

As a coach, it’s my responsibility to help athletes foresee, and overcome, the pitfalls and challenges of race day. And let me tell you, one formidable opponent that catches us off-guard, time and time again, is the relentless, blistering heat and humidity.

Imagine this: you’re battling your way through your triathlon. The morning swim went as planned, the cool water tempering your nerves and invigorating your spirits. But by the time you transition to the bike, the sun has started its ascent, and you’re racing against more than just time—you’re battling against the fiery furnace that is midday.

The heat has a way of creeping up on you, distorting reality, making the asphalt waver and dance before your very eyes. By the time you get to the running phase, it’s as if you’re running in an oven with the dial turned up to ‘roast’. 

Now this might sound dramatic, but anyone who’s faced the crushing force of the midday sun in humid conditions during a race can vouch for this.

That’s where heat acclimation comes into play. It’s about prepping your body for the marathon, not just the sprint. Heat can cause a slew of issues, from increased heart rate and lactate concentration to accelerated glycogen consumption. It’s a challenge you need to be prepared for and here are a few heat protocols to do just that.

  1. Load Up the Layers: Dress up with a few extra layers when heading out on aerobic runs and rides.  Though it might look a little funny out on a sunny warm day with a jacket on, it is a great way to increase body temperature and simulate steamy conditions.  It can also be done in your paincave but layering up and turning off the fan (and you will get fewer funny looks) I would suggest just doing this on aerobic runs or rides to get the adaptation.  Going into hot races  you still need to be fit so don’t sacrifice quality workouts by ramping up the discomfort and stress by adding heat.  That will reduce your top end speed as well as increase recovery time.  So save it for the aerobic work. 
  1. Sauna Sessions: This is my favorite way to get the heat work in.  When people think of the sauna they think of how relaxing it.  Yea…that’s not this.  For the sauna to create heat adaptation it has to get uncomfortable.  I’m talking staying in until your head is telling you you NEED to get out.  I find its great physical and MENTAL training as well.  Now don’t go being all A type and go to the extreme where you pass out, but you do need to stay in until it’s very uncomfortable to see adaptation.  Ideally you will start this 4-6 weeks out from race day, starting for 10-15 minute and building up for as long as you can with 3-4 sessions per week.
  2. Bath Time Boost: If you’re unable to access a sauna, a hot bath can be a great alternative. Similar to the sauna, a hot bath after a workout can help your body adapt to heat stress. Soak in a hot as you can stand it bath for around 5-15 minutes after a training session. This will help increase your body temperature, promoting heat acclimation, and better preparing your body for those warm race day conditions.

A few things to keep in mind with heat training:

  1. Start Early, Start Gradually: Adapting to heat is not a last-minute task. Your body needs time to acclimatize to increased temperatures. About two to three weeks before your race, gradually increase your training time in hot conditions. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
  2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Hydration becomes even more critical in hot conditions. As you sweat more, your body loses vital fluids and electrolytes. Make sure you’re replenishing these by drinking plenty of water and using electrolyte drinks during longer training sessions.
  3. Listen to Your Body: Heat adaptation should be challenging, but not dangerous. If you start to feel dizzy, nauseous, or overly fatigued, take a break and cool down. Heatstroke is no joke, so always listen to your body and take it easy if needed. 
  4. Seek Professional Guidance: If you’re not sure how to adapt your training plan for hot conditions, consider seeking help from a coach or sports science professional. They can provide personalized guidance and monitor your progress to ensure you’re adapting safely and effectively.


With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of heat adaptation for your next triathlon. Remember, preparation is key, and knowing how to handle the heat can be a massive advantage on race day. Now, let’s get out there and sizzle!

Are you looking for more personalized advice on heat adaptation or any other aspect of triathlon training? Feel free to get in touch for a consultation. Let’s make your next hot race your best race! Happy training, triathletes!

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