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However you’ve embraced varied ride conditions in the past, upgrading your “environmental flexibility” can provide a significant boost to your cycling performance . The best place to start is to periodically expose yourself to heat.
Preparing For The Heat
Even if you ride regularly in hot conditions, following a heat acclimation (HA) strategy can be a powerful training lever .
So how exactly should you integrate HA into your cycling? Here are the basics:
Let’s break down each step:
1: Be Consistent
HA is driven by exposure to a sufficient heat source or “thermal impulse” .
If you live in a hot climate, your best thermal impulse is probably riding outdoors during the hottest time of the day.
While cool weather cyclists have several effective options to choose from , the most practical heat impulse is riding indoors with the express intent of getting hot.
Before we outline this indoor HA strategy, a quick disclaimer.
During any HA training, if you feel dizzy, confused, or in any way “not right”, stop immediately. Obviously, staying safe is more important than eking out a few more watts during your next hot race.
With that disclaimer, here’s our basic HA strategy:
- The primary goal of an HA session is to safely maximize the thermal impulse on a ride. In simple terms, the ride should feel as hot as you can safely tolerate.
- Shoot for at least 30 minutes of hot riding at a moderate intensity , or around 90 minutes at a lighter intensity .
- Add progression to your heat training. Don’t start with the highest thermal impulse possible, build up either in ride duration, or by adding a combination of the elements listed below.
You can bump up the thermal impulse on an indoor ride as follows:
- Ride without a fan
- Use continuous/sustained efforts that are more likely to increase your core temperature
- Use a space heater to increase the ambient temperature in the room
- Choose to strategically not drink fluid during your session (a strategy called permissive dehydration) 
- Overdress to increase thermal strain
Remember to pay close attention to how you feel, and stop any of these techniques long before you’re not feeling right. The purpose of heat acclimation is to safely increase your tolerance to heat in a controlled environment, not to push yourself to the limits of consciousness.
2: Be Realistic
Effective HA takes time. Spend at least 10 consecutive days exposing yourself to hot indoor rides . If you can’t stack continuous exposure, nail a hot ride every third day stretched over a month .
If you’re crunched for time don’t despair; instead, put together five consecutive days in the weeks before a key event and call it good .
Like other training, you must use your body’s hard-earned adaptations to heat, or you’re bound to lose them.
After an initial HA sequence, make sure you’re exposing yourself to heat every three days or so in the weeks leading up to your target event .
What if your biggest ride challenge is elevation rather than heat?
If you live near rides starting around 6-8k feet, then dedicating focused time to training at altitude makes sense .
But if you’re like most cyclists who don’t live or regularly train at altitude, heat acclimation is probably your surest bet to prepare for your next event at altitude.
What does riding well in the heat have to do with riding at altitude?
In short, the principle of Cross-Adaptation describes your body’s ability to utilize adaptations acquired from hot environments in the hypoxic (lower levels of oxygen) environment found at altitude .
That’s a fancy way of saying HA will probably help you ride better at elevation, without spending the time, energy, or money chasing after altitude in the lead-up to your event.
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