ITU releases ‘Beat the Heat’, a comprehensive downloadable guide for racing in extreme hot conditions

by Olalla Cernuda/ITU Media

The International Triathlon Union, in cooperation with the University of Canberra and Loughborough University, has created ‘Beat the Heat’, an exhaustive document that will help triathletes and paratriathletes in their preparation to compete under hot and humid conditions, the likely scenario that athletes will face at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

With triathlon events typically taking place in the summer, athletes can be exposed to particularly hot and humid environmental conditions. Under overly oppressive conditions, both the capacity to perform and the health of the athletes can be negatively impacted. This guide will help triathletes, their teams and coaches to approach races held in these conditions, particularly in their preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and provides recommendations to optimize performance and minimize the occurrence of heat illness.

“We in ITU have always put the athletes’ health and safety first, and this comprehensive document is a clear example of the commitment of our team, the sport department and the medical committee in ITU, with guaranteeing that all triathletes and paratriathletes can perform at their best conditions and do it with all the safety measures that we can provide them”, explained ITU President and IOC member, Marisol Casado.

“The Sport and Medical team in ITU is fully committed to guarantee the safety of all the athletes. After analyzing the impact of the heat and humid conditions in the Test Event held in Tokyo in the summer of 2019, and after established a working group with representatives from our athletes, technical, medical and coaches’ committees along with a number of experts on this field, we decided to elaborate this guidelines to try to help all athletes on their road to Tokyo 2020 and beyond”, said Thanos Nikopoulos, ITU Head of Operations and one of the authors of the study.

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“‘Beat the Heat” is the ultimate publication for triathletes and paratriathletes, we have gathered all the scientific and medical information available to make it easy to comprehend for athletes and coaches, in order to facilitate their performance, training and acclimation”, explained Sergio Migliorini, Chair of the ITU Medical Committee.

“Triathletes face the unique challenge of competing in three disciples consecutively. They face this challenge at a very high intensity and sometimes in oppressing environmental conditions. Understanding how environmental heat stress impacts on the human body from a health and performance perspective is important, as the world’s best triathletes and paratriathletes prepare for Tokyo 2020. This document not only outlines how hot ambient conditions can acutely influence the athletes, it also outlines strategies to help mitigate its impact, such as having a hydration plan and heat acclimation”, said Julien Périard, from the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise, and author of the Beat the Heat guide. 

Although many principles in training and heat preparation are directly transferable from Olympic to Paralympic triathletes, a consideration of the physiological consequences of an athlete’s impairment is also important. With the expertise and practical experiences of Ben Stephenson and Vicky Goosey-Tolfrey from Loughborough University (The Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport), this ‘Beat the Heat’ guide blends the subtle but yet significant considerations faced by a paratriathlete preparing for Tokyo later this year.

What are the benefits of heat acclimation, how core temperature is regulated, cooling strategies to use before, during and after a race, the best hydration approaches and strategies, how much should an athlete drink and what are the ITU rules to help mitigate heat stress are all covered in this comprehensive document, which will be available for all athletes, coaches and National Federations.

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Even though some other International Federations like World Athletics have also elaborated guidelines for their athletes to improve their performance at the Tokyo Olympics, this is the first document that also covers para-athletes, and the impact that the heat and humidity can have on their performance considering the physiological consequences associated with their impairments.

You can download the ‘Beat the Heat’ guidelines here.

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