Coping with the heat

When it’s hot, athletes have to drink – a lot

Tom De Dorlodot (BEL) walkes through the villages of Barraux, France at the Red Bull X-Alps on June 24, 2019

As the race enters its final 24 hours temperatures are rising. In fact, temperatures in the south of France have been making headlines around the world. And while we do not expect the forecast epic highs of 40C-45C to reach the area of the course-line, race forecaster UBIMET has predicted temperatures in the valleys could hit 37C today (98.6F).

Hiking in these temperatures is uncomfortable at best, and unhealthy at worst. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, and that will rapidly lead to athletes suddenly ‘hitting the wall’ and simply having to stop.

Symptoms of heat stroke can include a bad headache, dizziness, high body temperature, and even fainting, among other things.

So what can athletes do to limit the impact of heat and sun on a day of extremely high temperatures?

The most important thing athletes will need to do is stay hydrated – both in the ground and in the air. Drinking water replaces fluids lost through sweating, and prevents fatigue.

Athletes should not wait until they feel thirsty to drink. Feeling thirsty means the body is already dehydrated. So it’s important athletes take regular sips of water throughout the day. For athletes this means drinking litres of water every day.

On the ground this is easy – you’ll see athletes carry water bottles, which will be regularly replenished by their supporters In the air, some athletes will use a drinking-tube system to make drinking easy. 

Other ways to stop overheating include wearing the right loose-fitting clothing, and protecting yourself from the sun by wearing sunglasses and a head cover. A hat, shades and sunscreen are essential for athletes in the Red Bull X-Alps.

Finally, when resting, it’s important to cool down and find some shade. The temperature is much higher in direct sun and of course there is the danger of sunburn.

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