Question: Living in Seattle, there is not much opportunity to build heat tolerance by riding in hot weather, assuming that even helps. Recently, while sitting in the steam sauna, I wondered, if done regularly, would that help. If so, would the steam sauna or dry sauna be more effective. Of course, I’m really looking for any excuse to spend more time in the sauna. Thanks. – Don Moe
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: We were just in Sammamish (suburban Seattle) visiting our son and family for several weeks and, given the daily rain, a sauna would have felt good. My rain bike got a workout – is it possible for an aluminum frame to rust?
I don’t know of any research on using a sauna for heat training. My best guess is that a study would be hard to design. It would involve a large number of subjects doing the same training program in cool or cold conditions. Then the control group could relax in their living rooms while the other group sat in the sauna each day.
The tough part would be testing whether the sauna helped when both groups then did hard rides in the heat. The logistics of moving the subject from cool conditions to hot ones would be costly. And then there’s the challenge of deciding how to evaluate their reaction to the sauna. Would it be justadaptation to heat measured by whether they got cramps, etc.? Or simply their performance on a one-hour time trial or something similar. So I’m not sure that any Ph.D. hopefuls have wanted to take on that research.
My guess is that simply sitting in a sauna wouldn’t help your subsequent performance on the bike in the heat. You need heat plus exertion to produce adaptation. Maybe if you could ride an indoor trainer in the sauna that would make it more like the real experience. If you’re training for the dry conditions of, say, Arizona, a dry sauna would in theory be more effective. (Add the steam for humid-climate training. Again, in theory.)
Come to think of it, riding an indoor trainer in a spare bedroom usually produces enough heat to get you ready for desert conditions. Just don’t use a fan – and have plenty of towels handy.