With high temperatures anticipated at Tokyo 2020, we’ve put together an expert-led guide to help you adapt
The following tips cover acclimatisation, pre-cooling strategies and staying hydrated
You and your entourage can also access the full list of recommendations from the IOC Medical Department
Exercising in hot and humid conditions presents a variety of concerns, from increasing the difficulty of endurance performance to making you vulnerable to such illnesses as heat cramp, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. But we don’t want this to have a negative influence on your preparation for the Games – and that’s why we’ve put together this simple, expert-led guide that will help you perform at your best.
Created in partnership with the IOC Medical Department, the guide addresses the key concerns you might have about competing in Tokyo and offers strategies that will reduce your risk of experiencing heat-related illnesses and ultimately enhance your performance.
How to acclimatise
The best way you can prepare for the hot and humid conditions of Tokyo is to practise in the heat before the Games get underway.
This will involve repeated exercising in high temperatures – such as in purpose-built chambers or improvised low-tech hot rooms – which will increase your body core and skin temperature, encourage significant sweating, decrease your heart rate at a given intensity, and allow for a better retention of electrolytes.
You’ll find that it can take between seven and 14 days for your body to acclimatise, so we recommend you train in conditions similar to Tokyo at least two weeks before the start of the Games. We’d also suggest that you complete a heat acclimatisation camp several weeks before the event, as this could further improve your ability to adapt.
You’ll already know how important hydration is as an elite athlete, but it’ll be even more important for you in Tokyo.
Competing in hot and humid conditions will encourage your body to sweat, and while sweating is a key process in helping your body to cool down, too much sweating could lead to dehydration. Dehydration accelerates the rise in whole-body temperature, and this can consequently have a negative influence on your performance.
To avoid this happening, you’ll need to ensure these fluids are replaced throughout your day. It’s absolutely crucial you get into the habit of keeping yourself hydrated before, during and after exercise.
After training or competition in the heat, recovery drinks should include sodium, carbohydrate and, if necessary, protein to optimise recovery. The preferred method of rehydration is through the consumption of fluids with foods, including salty food.
It might help you to put together a planned drinking schedule – this could even enhance your performance, particularly if you’re exercising at a high intensity for more than 90 minutes. But remember, any drinking strategy you establish must be personal to your own needs. Speak with your doctor and coach to create the right plan for you.
Pre-cooling strategies and accessories
Before the start of your competition, you should avoid unnecessary heat exposure and, where possible, warm up in the shade. You could consider ice vests, cold towels or fanning, and make sure you have access to cold fluids to cool you down.
Protecting your eyes is important too, and we recommend you wear sunglasses that block 100 per cent of UV rays. Similarly, you’ll want to protect your skin with a non-greasy water-based sunscreen. Lightly coloured clothing can also minimise the effect of the sun’s radiation, but you’ll want to avoid anything that impairs sweat evaporation.
Remember, any cooling methods you incorporate into your routine should be tested and individualised during training to avoid any disruption to you while you’re competing.