The onset of spring brings with it the opportunity to step out of our winter hibernation and to hit the tar and dirt again. Having to contend with warmer temperatures is a natural motivator for getting our legs turning, but there’s a sneaky snag: our bodies do not react well to high temperatures. In fact, riding in the heat has been proven to reduce our performance. Physiologically, heat does all sorts of stuff to us. But the heat issue is not all physical. Our perception of heat has a mental limitation too – in simple terms, feeling hotter makers our sense of effort sky rocket, and when your sense of effort increases you push out fewer watts. Here’s how to combat the mental influence of the heat:
Firstly, like riding through the transition from summer into winter, a change in temperature grabs our attention and we focus on it. We tell ourselves how hot we are feeling, and this creates a vicious cycle between body and mind. Our self-talk becomes all about the heat we are feeling. The key here is to pay less attention to the sensation of heat, and disrupt your heat-focused monologue. You’ve got to train your mind to shift focus elsewhere. The more you focus on the heat, the hotter you’ll feel.
Secondly, knowing the actual temperature can reinforce the vicious cycle mentioned above. Having the temperature field set on our Garmin is not a good idea. Turn it off. Klaar.
Thirdly, heat is only really an issue UNTIL you’ve acclimatized, which means that after a few weeks of consistent training in high temperatures your body will adapt and your perception of effort will come back into check. They key here is to know that you’re in a heat acclimation phase of your training. Embrace it, learn to love the heat and see it as another aspect to your physical and mental training which will pay dividends.
Finally, you may want to experiment with tricking your mind by using menthol. Menthol has a cooling effect, both internally and externally. Sucking on a menthol lozenge can do the trick, as well as spraying yourself with a menthol solution (not gonna win you any ‘cool’ points in the bunch though) or by having a menthol flavoured drink in your bidon. Give it a go.