Opening up the professional cycling and sports world.

Indoor Cycling is Hot

One of the obvious disadvantages of training indoors is that it can be hot - and not only can this make your riding uncomfortable but it can also impact your performance - in some cases by as much as 30% or more. But, there are steps you can take to ensure your riding is more comfortable and efficient. We explore all of the options to give you the best recommendations.


Episode transcript

 Damian: Episode 4 - indoor cycling is hot. Damian: One of the obvious disadvantages of training indoors is that it can be hot - and not only can this make your riding uncomfortable but it can also impact your performance - in some cases by as much as 30% or more. But, there are steps you can take to ensure your riding is more comfortable and efficient. To understand how a cyclist can cope with the heat I decided to test the recommendations our Sports Scientist Daniel Healey here at VirtuGO makes to his pro riders by doing two indoor rides - one with the recommendations and one without. And I was fascinated by what I found. Damian: From VirtuGO this is INSIDE - Opening up the professional cycling and sports world...and this week…putting cooling and hydration measures to the test. We also take a look at why cooling your indoor riding environment is critical to your cycling efficiency and performance. Clip: Wake up, walk and pissing... Damian: Staying hydrated at all times - even on days where you’re not planning to ride, is super important for performance and comfort in riding and life. And I started my N = 1 tests by monitoring my hydration. The monitoring started as soon as I woke up, and the simplest way to do this... Clip: pissing fade in… Damian: Yes that’s me peeing - sorry. The reason - monitoring the colour of urine is the simplest and most effective way to assess my hydration and by assessing the colour of my first urination and comparing it to a Urine Colour Chart you know where the starting point for the day is. Clip: me looking at chart... Damian: these charts are easy to come by and look simple enough but are really important and Daniel used these with the pro teams here worked for… Daniel: Urine colour charts, that’s the most handy and most just basically took care of itself... Damian: I’d started my day in a fairly good place hydration wise, but even then there are things that can dehydrate you overnight… Daniel: When you sleep you’re losing water to the environment there’s always going to be mild are most likely going to be dehydrated... Damian: so really no matter where the colour of your urine sits on the colour will probable need to follow Daniel first tip... Daniel: Now the big tip here... Damian: Before we get to my weigh in - let’s talk about the performance impact from dehydration - for such a small thing dehydration can actually make or break your performance. Daniel: The important thing to note is the effects...and follow your urine colour for the rest of the day. Damian: As important as staying hydrated is, this was just the start of the testing process for me - my aim for the next two days was to survive two one hour indoor rides, the first, which I’ll refer to as test ride 1 aka the hot ride was breaking all of Daniel’s indoor riding recommendations and the second, test ride 2 aka the cool ride, I followed all of Daniel’s recommendations as closely as possible. To measure the impact of the recommendations in both riding conditions I used Daniel’s guidelines on how to measure my sweat rate. Something I was super curious about because I’ve been been called the gland before - as in the sweat gland because I do sweat a lot. This is how Daniel recommendation you measure sweat rate... Daniel: So how do we measure sweat rates? That level of humidity. Damian: As per Daniel instructions I started with the all important weigh in, and please take note that you’re going to hear the recordings of both rides blended into one each time we check in on the tests, which can be a little confusing to listen to. Clip: Weigh in... Damian: I started by weighing myself with no clothes on, sorry for the visual. And also weighing the clothes I was going to wear and finally measuring out 500 ml of water. Then it was time to get riding. And I started by taking the room temperature and my temperature - just via my ear - I wasn’t prepared to take a rectal thermometer for the tests - sorry. Clip: Temps...ride one and two Damian: Before we get to the first room temperature and body temperature report at 15 minutes, it’s important to know that sweat is just one by-product from a complex series of physiological processes that respond to exercising in a hot environment. To understand how a cyclist copes with training in a hot environment it is worthwhile looking at the limits of body temperature and how they are regulated under normal conditions. Starting with core body temperature... Daniel: Your target body temperature...and just really interesting numbers I think. Damian: In the hot ride, against Daniel’s recommendations, I didn’t use a fan, and then used one fan in the cool ride. And as any experienced indoor cyclist will tell you - a fan is a non-negotiable for a comfortable ride but what’s the reason a fan so important? Daniel: Please, please, put the fan on...lower the temperature in the room. Damian: So I’m missing that second fan - something to try next time. For now, though, let’s get to the first check in and see if anything has changed this early in the ride... Clip: 15 minute temps Damian: So the sweat is starting to form in test ride 1. And not so much in test ride 2. One of the factors that was definitely speeding up my sweat production was wearing a jersey - something I don’t think I’ve ever done indoors - even in V02max tests. Daniel explains why choosing the right clothes is super important... Daniel: The clothes you don’t even need to have a shirt... Damian: Well I had a shirt on in the hot ride and as you will hear in a second, it was part of the reason I was a sweat factory - and it couldn’t even soak it up, though. Let’s check in again… Clip: 30 minute temps Damian: As you heard I was very busy in test ride 1 collecting sweat, but in test ride 2 I’d wiped my face a couple of times and had no visible sweat anywhere on my body. A big player in this has to be the difference in room temperature between test ride 1 and test ride 2. And this is all to do with the importance of lowering the humidity in the indoor training space. Something which Daniel mentioned when he was talking about my room I don’t have windows close by my setup but I did have a door I could open, and with temps outside hovering around 10 degrees c for both rides it was enough to drop the room temp by 2 degrees celsius between tests. This was not as clear in how I was feeling at 45 minutes because I actually felt OK and cooled off slightly by this point and my biggest issue was the dreaded wet towel... Clip: 45 minute temps Damian: As you just heard my body temperatures at this stage were very close at 36.3 and 36.2 degrees c. But that doesn’t tell you how hard my body was working to maintain these because at 30 minutes my body temp was 37 and 36.2 - in the hot ride my body temp had risen then fallen again, while in the cool ride my temp had stayed exactly the same. And talking about working harder - body shape plays a role in how hard you are working against heat and asking the question - What body shape am I? Will help you decide what extra steps, if any, you may need to take to control your environment. Personally, I sit at the high end of the moderate mesomorph somatotype but here’s Daniel explaining a bit about different body shapes... Daniel: and this gets into somatotypes...sweat glands on the front and back of your body working. Damian: Now we get to the end of the test rides and the final check in and I will say that the drop in my body temperature in the cool ride was a big surprise...while in the hot ride I returned back to my starting temp. Clip: 60 minute temps Damian: So I’d dropped point six of a degree in the final check in for the cool ride. I’m not sure why this might have happened, but it’s actually similar to the drop from 30 to 45 minutes in the hot ride. Overall, though, I saw a much more consistent body temperature in the cool ride and even not considering the outcome of the sweat rate measurements my body must have been working harder to compensate for the hotter environment and body temps. And my final weigh in…??? Clip: Weigh in after rides… Damian: Now you might have done the calculations in your head, but before I reveal the difference, I’ve got a few comments - intensity wise, the test rides were comparable and actually not very hard, both 60 minutes and the intensity factor averaged 0.75 between the two. So all things being equal except for the recommendations I had approximately half the sweat from adding a fan, taking a jersey and cap off and opening the door. In numbers - in the hot ride I lost 1.55kg in weight and in the cool ride I lost .8kg in weight. Damian: Now, the big questions once you have your sweat rate are - is my sweat rate normal? And - what do you do with this information? Benchmarking low, moderate or high sweat rates is not as straightforward as can be because there are a lot of variables involved. If we take a recent study published online on March 22, 2017, that looked at a range of sweat rate data collected in a variety of sports from ~500 athletes. The range of sweat rates in the data was about 0.5 liters per hour to just over 2.5L/hr. This seems to be backed up by other sources as a fairly common spread. From here we could say that Daniel: moderate seat rate is 0.8 to 1.4 Damian: (for a healthy adult) during prolonged exercise of a reasonable intensity. Anything much less than 1L/hr would be on the low side and anything above 2L/hr should be considered high. If you’re losing over 2.5L/hr, then you definitely have a very high sweat rate. So for I’m thinking the the gland is not really such an accurate nickname afterall. But what else can I do (and not do) with the data other than refute a nickname? And again, the answer is not as straightforward as most of us would like it to be. Part of the reason for this is replacing lost fluid during exercise is not as simple as a 1 out = 1 in. Daniel: If you’re at the upper limit...your definitely you’re going to be dehydrated no matter what you do. Damian: This makes it tricky on longer days on the bike but if you are working for an hour indoors and can limit the sweat losses to under 1.2L/hr with Daniel’s recommendations you will have no trouble replacing the water loss. After the ride is a different story and let your sweat rate guide you and set a rough benchmark for how much sweat you’ll likely lose over a period of time, at a certain intensity and in a particular set of environmental conditions and use the 1 kg of sweat loss equals 1 litre of replacement fluid - and get it into your system as soon as possible. And the type of fluid? Daniel: What type of fluid should you have…because you’ve got the fuel Damian: INSIDE is produced by VirtuGO and hosted by me, Damian Ruse. If you enjoyed this show and you want to hear more - Subscribe on Apple Podcasts of wherever you listen. And tell your riding buddies - Thank you so very much for listening and we’ll see you next episode or out on the road.