Summers in Vermont serve as a great reminder to me that:
1.) I really like living with my SMST2 teammates
2.) I love being outdoors
3.) Ski practice with the SMS juniors are so fun and I like watching them go after their goals
4.) Green Mountains are beautiful and should be climbed often and
5.) It’s a very good thing I am a winter sport athlete, because I do not deal with high heat and humidity well.
I’ve always struggled with overheating and shutting down during hard workouts when it’s above 80 degrees F and humid. Don’t we all. It’s not just that I feel miserable when I’m too hot, but my workout deteriorates, which isn’t good in the long term for my training! This year I’m actively trying to do something about it in order to keep the quality of my workouts high.
One of the tests I did this spring in the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center was a heat exposure test, which, without getting too far into it, basically proved one big thing. When I exercise in high heat and humidity, if I don’t take steps to acclimate or cool myself down (by drinking water, dunking a shirt in ice water, etc.) my body reaches a point where it can no longer regulate it’s temperature and I start overheating, reaching a temperature over 102 *F, at which point I shut down. Actually, at that point it’s not just me…everyone shuts down when their core temp reaches fever point.
As an athlete, I’m always looking to take the next step forward, to see what little things I can tweak in my training and approach to skiing in order to take the next step forward. Sometimes there’s fairly obvious, easy changes to make that I simply haven’t gotten on top of yet. And staying on top of hydration, taking care to not overheat or get dehydrated during workouts, is one way I can improve. It seems so straightforward, but I found this spring that I actually need to be drinking about 38 oz of water per hour during training, which is usually what I drink over the course of a 2 hour workout when I’m not thinking about it. That amount changes person to person and will also fluctuate in hot or cold conditions, so if you’re chugging water as you read this, you can put the bottle down – that’s the amount I need, but not necessarily what YOU need!
On top of that, we all need salt. Again, the sodium concentration of your sweat is going to be different from mine. I know the amount I need in my drink belt in order to actually absorb the water I’m drinking and get the most out of it. There’s a lot of easy ways to get it, too: by eating energy bars or gels during my longer skis, or by adding sports drink or a Nuun tablet to my drink belt so I’ll have the right mix of electrolytes. And it makes it taste better, too! So it’s just about taking the extra 5 seconds to remember to do those things.
I got to test out my new and improved drinking habits during bounding and ski walking intervals up Stratton Mountain. It was hot and humid with bright sun, which normally makes for a pretty intense interval experience! But I was so happy after the workout because I had gone through tons of water and didn’t overheat to the point of jeopardizing my workout. PROGRESS!!! It feels so good. More importantly, I felt happy at the end of a tough workout and I felt like I was taking one more step in the right direction.
As you might have gathered from the tone of this post, I’ve been really happy with how the last week in Stratton has gone! It was a smooth move-in back to the team housing, and it’s been great training with the team again. We all bring different things to the table so we’re able to help each other move forward.
Jason Cork, the men’s team coach for the US Ski Team but also my personal coach (he writes my training plan) came to visit us this past week and it was awesome to have him here! He and Pat did some individual technique sessions with us, which was so helpful in figuring out specific things we’re working on.
We’ve also gotten to do some beautiful workouts, like an over distance roll through New York ending in a pool party at the Newell house!