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Heat research from Loughborough featured in global triathlon guide

Academics from Loughborough University have helped devise a comprehensive report that will benefit triathletes and paratriathletes in their preparation to compete under hot and humid conditions – like those predicted at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The document, titled ‘Beat the Heat’, has been written in cooperation with the International Triathlon Union, and the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise (UCRISE), to help triathletes, coaches and support teams by providing recommendations to optimise performance and minimise the occurrence of heat illness.

Loughborough’s research stemmed from research assistant Ben Stephenson’s practical experience observing various international triathlon events, which was overseen by Vicky Tolfrey, Professor of Applied Disability Sport and Director of the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport.

With competitions typically taking place in the summer months, athletes can be exposed to particularly hot and humid environmental conditions. Under overly oppressive conditions, both the capacity to perform and the health of the athletes can be negatively impacted.

Ben explained how his research shaped Loughborough’s input:

“Paratriathletes are a population with a heightened risk of health or performance detriments when performing in the heat due to primary or secondary consequences of their physical impairments.

“With the paratriathlon races in Tokyo only about 200 days away, this document is a timely opportunity to share our recent research in the sport which details the level of strain imposed on paratriathletes when competing in hot and humid environments and how they may effectively prepare.”

Although many principles in training and heat preparation are directly transferable from Olympic to Paralympic triathletes, the report also offers consideration of the physiological consequences of an athlete’s impairment.

“Triathletes face the unique challenge of competing in three disciples consecutively and they face this challenge at a very high intensity and sometimes in oppressing environmental conditions,” added Professor Vicky Tolfrey.

“Understanding how environmental heat stress impacts on the human body from a health and performance perspective is important, as the world’s best triathletes and paratriathletes prepare for Tokyo 2020. This document not only outlines how hot ambient conditions acutely can influence the athletes, but it also outlines strategies to help mitigate its impact, such as having a hydration plan and heat acclimation.

“We’re proud to have to been invited to contribute and that is testament to our thorough work in this field.”

Last updated February 2020.