Stay Cool on the Hottest Rides


Your performance doesn’t have to dip as the temperatures rise. Here are 8 strategies for success.

As soon as you start pedaling, an internal battle begins between your skin and your cycling muscles. Your skin needs your blood to radiate heat, help you sweat and keep you cool. Your muscles need it to get the oxygen and nutrients they need to keep your cranks turning. When the outside temperatures rise, that battle becomes particularly fierce—but skin always wins when the threat of heat illness rises, taking juice away from your muscles. So basically, you’re going to slow down unless you can keep yourself cool.

The heat battle is all too familiar to James Herrera, CSCS, with Performance Driven Coaching and the Wounded Warrior Project who has trained and worked with athletes from the high dry heat of the Southwest to the muggy sweltering conditions in the Southeast. “The humidity thing is a new beast for me,” says Herrera, who is currently practicing in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I’ve had to employ all those strategies I’ve prescribed to people living in muggy climates for years. That being said, it’s not as bad as I thought once you acclimate and pay attention to the details,” he says. Here’s what he recommends.

Pre Cool your Jets

Drink something really cold before you head out—a slushy if possible. Research shows that athletes were able to run nearly 10 minutes longer in tests to exhaustion in the heat after drinking an iced slushy compared to when they drank just cold water. “I have a smoothie for breakfast, which works as a slushy since I make it in a blender with ice cubes and frozen fruit,” says Herrera. “I also have my Americano over ice, so I can get my caffeine fix without heating up my core.”

If you happen to have access to a cold pool or other body of water, taking a plunge before you roll out also will help you stay cool longer, but unless you’re doing a triathlon or live near a creek, that’s not always a practical option.