RAGBRAI Training: Beating the Heat

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Summer is reluctantly making a presence here in Iowa.  But the temperature and humidity are rising just in time for RAGBRAI.  There is almost no chance that July will be anything but hot and humid.   Those of you who have ridden RAGBRAI before know that the heat is often one of the greatest challenges of doing this ride. What we lack in mountains is more than made up with our heat and humidity. I’ve had some questions about how to handle the heat so here are some tips for preparing for and surviving the heat.

Acclimating yourself to the heat can help you better handle hot weather when riding. By riding in hot weather prior to RAGBRAI you should be better prepared for dealing with the heat. Typically people like to get out and ride early in the morning on hot days to avoid the heat. While this makes your training rides more comfortable and perhaps more beneficial, you won’t be able to avoid the heat during RAGBRAI even you begin bright and early.  So while it’s okay to do some of your training when it’s cool, do some of it in the heat of the day, such as on weekends. Doing so will build some tolerance to the heat.

When you ride in the heat, it is especially important to stay hydrated. Don’t push yourself as hard when it is hot and don’t try to go as far. Your more challenging rides should still be done when it is cooler. I’ve been asked if it is a good idea to wear extra clothing to simulate or accentuate heat. I would not recommend doing this. You generate a lot of heat internally when you ride. Any time the temperature gets into the 80s, your body has to work extra hard to dissipate this internally generated heat and you don’t want to over-stress your body by wearing additional clothing.

Tips for dealing with the heat when training for and riding RAGBRAI:

The best way to deal with the heat on RAGBRAI is to try to avoid it. Many people get up early and are on their bikes by 6AM. They often get done with their ride before the mid afternoon heat. The heat usually starts to settle in by mid to late morning, so you can get many miles behind you before it gets really hot by starting early.

Wear light colored clothing. The lighter the color of your clothing, particularly your shirt or jersey, the more sunlight will be reflected and the less heat your clothing and body will absorb. You can also select jerseys that are made of lightweight materials that breathe and allow for rapid evaporation of perspiration. Cotton is a poor choice as it holds moisture and can make you feel hotter. Some guys like to ride without a shirt but this may actually be hotter than wearing a lightweight, light colored jersey.

Cool yourself off with water, both inside and outside. Keeping the water flowing into your body is very important because staying well hydrated will allow you to continue to perspire and cool yourself off. But also consider pouring some water over your head and down the back of your neck on hot days. Just be careful not to pour your bottle of sports drink over your head! Many towns offer a hose spraying water into the air, and some towns have swimming pools. Take advantage of these to cool off. It can be extremely refreshing and cool you off temporarily.

Find shade. On very hot, sunny days, take a break periodically and find some shade, especially where you can find a breeze. These shade breaks can cool down your core temperature and allow you to feel refreshed.

Stay cool and be cool! – Coach David Ertl

To read more of Coach Ertl’s training blogs, see the archives at http://ragbrai.com/category/ragbrai-training-blog/

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and is a national head coach for the the JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and he coaches individual cyclists. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com.

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