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University of Connecticut Neag School of Education Korey Stringer Institute

Information for Endurance Athletes

Endurance athletes uniquely need to ensure hydration throughout the event due to the elongated time period in which sweat can be lost from the body.  Ensuring maintenance of hydration is essential and for events lasting longer than an hour in duration a sports drink or electrolyte supplement is recommended.

Checklist for Safely Participating in a Road Race

Running a road race can be very exciting. Preparing and training can also be very stressful, especially if this is your first race. The Korey Stringer Institute has prepared a list of things to focus on while preparing before the race, the morning of the race and during the race, to help prevent a heat illness. The list is not all inclusive, or exhaustive, but will give you a good place to start to perform safely in the race. 

Before the race

  1. If you are traveling to a race that will be held in a warmer environment than what you have trained in, be sure to either arrive early to the destination in order to acclimatize to the new environment (usually taking 7–10 days) or train during the parts of the day that most resemble the environment you will encounter on race day (train in the afternoon if the environment will be warmer than what you are used to). Take precautions when first exposing your body to new environmental extremes such as bringing extra water, taking more rest breaks, training at a lower intensity.
  2. Also remember, training very early in the morning or late in the evenings may not acclimatize your body for the conditions it will face if the race is held during the middle of the day.
  3. Keep an eye on the forecast and plan accordingly. Sudden changes in the weather temperature (especially for spring or fall races) could result in temperatures much higher or lower then normally expected, or even experienced in the previous days. In addition to the temperature, monitor the expected humidity. Higher humidity decrease the ability for sweat to evaporate, therefore making it harder to cool yourself.
  4. Plan to maintain proper hydration status by determining your individual sweat rate. This will dictate how much fluid you need to drink to appropriately replace your sweat lost during the race. Note that your sweat rate will change based on your fitness status, intensity level, and environment, therefore measure your sweat rate in conditions when these are similar to your predicted race day. This also allows you to train the drinking process prior to your event, which could be extremely beneficial.
  5. Determine your sweat rate after you are acclimatized to the weather conditions of the race. Your body sweats more when acclimated versus when not acclimated as a cooling mechanism.  Learn how to calculate sweat rate here.
  6. Remember thirst is helpful in determining when fluids are needed. Heed the desire to drink, since this means you clearly are in needs of fluid. If you do not have consistent access to fluids you may not want to depend on thirst alone, since fluids may not be available when you need them. Consider also packs that allow you to carry fluid with you.
  7. Runners who are less fit are not able to tolerate warm environments as well as fit runners, therefore, be sure to adequately train for the event you plan on racing.
  8. If you plan to consume caffeine and you do not regularly consume it, do so during your training a couple of weeks prior to the race so you know how it affects your body and plan accordingly.
  9. Avoid alcohol the night before the event.

Morning of the race

  1. Eat a good breakfast. Do not try any new foods the morning of your race to avoid any potential adverse effects.
  2. Dress for the race conditions and be able to take off layers as you get warmer throughout the race.
  3. Monitor the color of your urine as an indicator of your hydration status. You want it to look more like lemonade rather than apple juice.
  4. Be sure you are registered and your bib is properly filled out and contains all of the important medical information.
  5. Make sure you have a hydration and supplement plan prior to the start. Know where the water stations are and plan to take water and gels/nutrition accordingly.

During the race

  1. Listen to your body! Pay attention to anything abnormal you may be feeling, including dizziness, confusion, unusual anger, or irritability. If you feel these types of abnormal feelings, then back off on your intensity, if it persists seek assistance.
  2. Stick to your hydration plan developed by your personal sweat rate. Also, let thirst be a guide to modify if necessary. Be sure not to drink more then what you are losing due to sweat losses.
  3. Pay attention to the race officials for any announcements throughout the course.
  4. Decrease your pace if the environmental conditions are much warmer or more humid than what you expected or trained in.
  5. Do not increase your pace or intensity throughout the event if the race is much warmer or more humid then you expected. Remember, 75% of muscles contraction energy is exerted as body heat… while only ~25% goes to muscle contraction itself.

 

Tips to Stay Cool

Staying cool in the heat when exercising is important. Increased body temperature when exercising can lead to heat illnesses such as exertional heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat syncope. Body temperature can increase for many reasons besides exercise alone. They include:

  • Illness
  • Lack of acclimatization to the heat
  • Dehydration
  • Long-term lack of sleep
  • Poor physical fitness
  • Amount of equipment being worn in heat
  • Certain medications (ADHD medications, Sudafed, Ephedra, recreational drugs)

 

It is not hard to stay cool when exercising if you take the proper steps beforehand such as:

  • Avoid practicing during the hottest part of the day
  • Take time to adapt to hot environments over the course of 10-14 days (acclimatization)
  • Take frequent breaks (every 20 minutes or so)
  • Stay hydrated before, during and after practice
  • Maintain a minimum level of physical fitness even when not practicing
  • Avoid practicing when you are sick
  • Make sure you practice where there is a shaded or cool area nearby
  • Don’t use full heavy gear until you have acclimatized to the heat
  • Have ice towels available to use during rest breaks
  • Have accurate temperature monitors available to prevent exertional heat stroke
  • Monitor body temperature more closely if using medications that increase body temperature
  • Avoid recreational drugs

In a competition scenario, minimize warm-up or warm up in cool or air conditioned environment

**Print as a PDF

 

References

  1. Binkley HM, Beckett J, Casa DJ, Kleiner DM, Plummer PE. National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement: exertional heat illnesses. J Athl Train. 2002;37:329–343.

  2. Casa DJ, Armstrong LE, Hillman SK, Montain SJ, Reiff RV, Rich BSE, Robers WO, Stone JA.  National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement: fluid replacement for athletes.  J Athl Train. 2000;35(2):212-224.

  3. Casa DJ, Csillan D. Preseason heat-acclimatization guidelines for secondary school athletics. J Athl Train. 2009;44(3):332–333.
  4. Sawka MN, Burke LM, Eichner ER, Maughan RJ, Montain SJ, Stachenfeld NS. American College of Sports Medicine position stand: exercise and fluid replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39:377–390.
  5. Shirreffs SM, Armstrong LE, Cheuvront SN.  Fluid and electrolyte needs for preparation and recovery from training and competition. J Sports Sci. 2004;22:57-63.