Author: Matt Dixon
Last week, Episode 74 of the Purple Patch Podcast focused on heat training and performance in hot environments. We received a lot of positive feedback from the show globally, but I always aim to dig a little deeper and provide more insight for you, the PP athletes.
In the show, there wasn’t enough room to discuss an important element that has real coaching ramifications to it, and as Purple Patch is charged with guiding your performance journey, I feel it is important to expand here. I want to specifically discuss heat “events.” It is easy to outline the performance decline that occurs as a result of a hot environment or severe dehydration, but sometimes the stress goes beyond slowing down on race day. Occasionally, things go wrong and the effects can be longer lasting. In the show, I discussed core temperature and the balance of “inside” temperatures balancing between 97 to 99 degrees, but what happens when that temperature goes well above there? 100, 102, 104 degrees? First, you are promised a dramatic performance drop off. You will not recover within a race, and the race will be “over.” Assuming, though, things don’t go drastically bad, it is important to acknowledge that these types of events don’t just mean a bad day. There is a high possibility of a lag that extends well beyond that race day.
Events such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and even extreme dehydration that is typically aligned with both situations, will leave you with longer-lasting issues. The amount of recuperation and rest required to fully restore your system is much greater than you might imagine. There is also a very real possibility that your ability to perform in the heat (at least within a demanding sport like this) will be compromised for the long-term. There is every chance that your thermoregulatory ability is compromised for extended periods and, potentially, ever. I believe that this type of impact was felt by a former Purple Patch professional, Meredith Kessler, when she succumbed to heat stroke in training prior to Kona. The chances of being able to operate in heat again were severely compromised. Just a couple of weekends ago, we witnessed an athlete succumb to heat stress less than one kilometer away from winning one of the major IRONMAN races in the world. She did not finish. This was her second heat “event” in a month, and I worry that it may bring on a massively impaired inability to perform in heat form now on. I hope I am wrong, but that is the pattern.
All this to say, take this seriously. Don’t be fearful of heat, but take on the advice and act on it. Manage yourself and retain hydration.While I have you, another important coaching add-on: You cannot coach dehydration. There is a lot of discussion and theory around fasting workouts and limiting calories to increase fat utilization. That is a discussion for another day, and one we will have, but the key to this is that there is no such thing as this with regards to hydration. There is no training effect and physiological gains. The only outcome is stress and damage. Seems to me it is worth retaining your hydration patterns.