The heat has broken out and it affects, and how much, the performance of athletes at all levels. Experts from the Mapei Sport Research Centre today explain, data in hand, the sensations experienced by everyone during this period.

«Physiological demands, determined by training or competitions, can be significantly increased when they take place in environments that induce an increase in thermal stress. The increase in load imposed on the athlete can lead to an increase in the perception of exertion (RPE) during exercise and a reduction in physical performance» says Ermanno Rampinini, Mapei Sport’s Director of Operations.

There are several studies that have verified the effect of warm environments, reproduced under standardised laboratory conditions, on aerobic exercise at constant load. «For example, it has been reported that an increase in ambient temperature (while keeping the relative humidity level constant) induces a significant increase in heart rate, body temperature, RPE and reduces the ability to sustain exercise. Similarly, an increase in relative humidity levels (keeping the ambient temperature constant) induces an increase in skin temperature, RPE, sweating levels and reduces performance. Finally, it has also been reported that an increase in solar radiation levels (keeping ambient temperature and humidity constant) leads to a reduction in the temperature gradient between the inner body parts and skin inducing a significant reduction in physical performance. Consequently, each of the variables that contribute to increased environmental thermal stress plays a role in reducing physical performance in hot-humid environments» continues the head of the Human Performance Lab at the Olgiate Olona (Varese) centre.

So what should we do when the thermometer rises? If possible, avoid training in the hottest hours and with the sun at its peak, protect your head and skin from UV rays, and always take a drink with you to avoid dehydration. We should also not exaggerate with workloads, giving our bodies time to recover from the exertion. An often underestimated aspect of training is recovery. Respecting this is important both between specific exercises within individual training sessions and between different blocks of work.