Ivica and Dr Yannis both recognised the importance of training in similar conditions to what you will experience at your target event.
Acclimatising can greatly improve your performance, and it can make you mentally stronger, too.
Watch the webinar to find out the best ways to prepare for challenging conditions at events, and access our Beat the Heat resources here.
As part of our online resources to help you adapt to different environments around the world, four-time Olympic silver medallist Ivica Kostelić and professor of sport and exercise science Dr Yannis Pitsiladis joined host Jeanette Kwakye for a special webinar on how to beat the conditions.
Ivica spoke about how his training always gave him the best chance of succeeding in bad weather, while Dr Yannis shared his experiences in training elite level athletes, including his view on what the ideal preparation for a major event is.
Train for all weathers
Ivica’s four Olympic silver medals came at three different Olympic Winter Games (Turin 2006, Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014), and he believes that his ability to perform consistently in different environments and conditions is down to a commitment to train relentlessly.
“Since childhood, I’ve trained every day. Being from Croatia, we had to travel to get to snow, but once we were there, we would train no matter the weather. Even as I got older during the World Cup seasons and the Olympics, it’s a habit I kept. If the lifts were open, I trained.”
Ivica saw this determination to train regardless of the weather as an advantage over his competition.
“What I see more today is people looking for perfect conditions, but more than a few times in my career, we had to race in bad conditions. I was always good in bad weather, because it wasn’t a big difference to me. It was just another day and I felt comfortable in that weather because I never skipped training in similar conditions.”
Dr Yannis is a member of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission’s Adverse Weather Impact Expert Working Group. He revealed that according to a survey of athletes who participated in the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, only 55% had prepared for the hot conditions in Qatar.
“You should always prepare for the toughest conditions,” he explained. “If the conditions turn out to be good on race day, then you’re ready for them anyway. I’ve always said to athletes that they should wish for bad weather because it means that they will be prepared, and the others might not be!”
With the importance of acclimatising to your conditions established, Dr Yannis explained that, ideally, you should be preparing for a target competition six months in advance.
“With six months to go before the event you want to have started to prepare. When you go to Tokyo, for example, nothing should be new, you should be used to the conditions already.
“If you haven’t done this yet, don’t get stressed – you still have time! But you need to start thinking about it now.”
The best way to train in similar conditions to your target event is to attend a training camp in a place with similar heat and similar humidity. But if that’s not possible for you there are ways that you can practise at home, as Dr Yannis explained.
“Environmental chambers are great, and they can be high tech, but you don’t need a chamber costing half a million dollars to prepare.
“When I worked with elite runners in Africa, we went into one room of a house, put in pots of boiling water, heaters, gadgets to measure the temperature and a treadmill. You don’t need specialist equipment to prepare.”
Be resistant to everything
Ivica also believes that preparing for tougher conditions can offer a psychological boost to athletes in addition to the physical benefit.
“Training has physical consequences, but also mental consequences. It doesn’t just make you capable to respond to bad weather, but it makes you mentally stronger. My dad was my coach and he always said that gold is the symbol of victory because it’s resistant to everything. That’s why someone who wants to win has to train no matter the conditions.”
WITH SIX MONTHS TO GO BEFORE THE EVENT YOU WANT TO HAVE STARTED TO PREPARE. WHEN YOU GO TO TOKYO, FOR EXAMPLE, NOTHING SHOULD BE NEW, YOU SHOULD BE USED TO THE CONDITIONS ALREADY.
DR YANNIS PITSILADIS
Want to learn more about how you can acclimatise to tough conditions? Check out our online resources on the topic here, including a detailed leaflet from the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission on how to beat the heat.