Oppressive heat bringing down your power numbers and race results? Do you feel sapped of energy and can’t put it in top gear when temperatures reach 32°C/90°F? A recent study from the University of Oregon, Eugene might have the key to bring your performance back to par.

Researchers took twelve trained cyclists and performed VO2max, time trial (60 minutes) and lactate threshold tests in both cool (13°C/55°F) and hot conditions (38°C/100°F).

After their initial tests, researchers split the group in two. Each group rode two, 45-minute sets per day with 10 minutes of rest in between sets for six days. One group did these under cool conditions, the other group did them in hot conditions. Both groups continued normally training in addition to these sessions.

The results are shocking. Not only did the “hot” group improve their power output in hot weather, they also improved it in cool weather. Yes, that’s right. Doing easy, 90-minute spins in hot weather improved their power output in cool weather.

In cool conditions, the “hot” group improved their VO2max by 5% and their 60-minute power output by 5%. In hot conditions, the “hot” group improved their VO2max by 8% and their 60-minute power output by 5%. The “cool” control group saw no improvement.

Amazing results.  How should we interpret them?  One thing we don’t want to extrapolate is that if doing easy rides in hot conditions improves performance, that means I should do all of my training in hot weather in order to maximize performance.  I don’t think we should take away that message from this study.

Here’s how I think cyclists and triathletes should apply the results of this study to their training.  If you are currently training in the summer, try to do the majority of your training in the early morning or indoors in the coolest conditions possible.  Then, when the temperatures hit the max of the day, go out and do some easy spinning.

The participants in the study only did this for 6 days and got these results.  I suspect that once you acclimate to the heat, your performance doesn’t improve with more spinning in hot conditions.

If you’re training in cool conditions, I’d follow your normal training schedule then try to heat up a room in your house and do some easy spinning on the trainer.  I’d use a bathroom with the shower on to bring up the temperature at first then use a little space heater to keep it hot.

I’d do this a few weeks before your A race to try to squeak out every bit of performance. Consider heat acclimation as part of your next taper strategy.


Link to study