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The Science of Performing in the Heat

By Robert Forster, Physical Therapist

Exercise in extreme heat puts great stress on numerous physiological systems of the body. It can severely debilitate athletic performances, create bodily damage, illness and, in extreme cases, cause death. Knowing how the body reacts to heat can help you combat this environmental stress intelligently and prevent it from ruining your preparation for a great performance.

You have planned for months for the biggest triathlon race of the year. It is a true test of your fitness and the many hours of preparation you have invested in your training. NOW is the time when it is all supposed to come together for a great day of racing. On race day you barely notice it feels a little warmer than home because you are distracted with pre-race preparation. You are not accustomed to drinking from the tap so forego your usual jump on hydration but make a mental note to drink more at breakfast. You rush through breakfast and suddenly find yourself at the start a bit thirsty. You attribute the dry mouth to nerves but you are already sweating as the time for your wave to go off approaches. As you pummel your way through the crowded water it's "water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink."