Summer in South Africa is in full swing, but the holidays are over and, for most of us, we are back to the nine-to-five. For many this means a return to indoor training before and / or after work, but that isn’t actually completely true for all nowadays. Not everyone trains indoors, only because they have to anymore. It has become a well-established fact that indoor training has many advantages. The control over your output is probably the dominant factor resulting in many serious, recreational and professional athletes spending more time indoors on machines like: Concept 2 Rowers; Bike and Ski Ergs. All variables can be precisely controlled, and progress measured minutely.
Training indoors was easier to accomplish in the cold, dark mornings and evenings of Winter however. Significantly, it was colder. So, the fact that you were stationary and generating heat from hard-working muscles without the airflow of actually moving across a lake or along a road was not so hard to dissipate. Training indoors in Summer is a different story altogether. The increased ambient air temperature and higher humidity levels, for those that live on the coast, need to be taken into account. Not only in order to achieve the desired levels of performance in your sessions but also to aid in recovering between sessions so that the body absorbs and assimilates the work done.
Our most palpable concern is cooling. Fans are the answer. Seems obvious and I suppose it is. The reason that we overheat indoors is because our sweat is not being evaporated as quickly off our skin as it would in the wind and air movement that is generated outdoors, where we are moving ourselves forwards. The body needs the evaporating sweat to cool the skin. Indoors the air around the body becomes more humid as the moisture is released and turned into water vapour but it is not moved away as it would be outdoors. Or, in reality, left behind us. The fan blows this moist air away from the body allowing more evaporation to occur off the skin and increasing the effectiveness of the body’s cooling system.
On the East Coast of South Africa this is not as easily achieved as humidity is often in the 90s in the early morning and not much less for the rest of the day. I am personally not a fan, excuse the pun, of air conditioning. My thinking is that it is artificial and brings with it potential respiratory, nasal and sinus issues. That said, when the humidity is through the roof and we have to complete a hard interval set on the Bike Erg in Durban, air conditioning is a big advantage in allowing the body to maintain optimum operating temperatures. The compromise I suggest is to use the air-conditioning as follows: Cool the room down, and dry out the air, before you start training. Allowing you to not run the air-con at a high level while you are training. While you are training the air-con should just be used to maintain a pleasant temperature and humidity. Position your Erg or aircon unit so that you are not in the direct line of the airflow. Still use a fan for direct airflow onto your body but use the aircon to control the climate in the room.
The BikeErg has the same flywheel and Performance Monitor as our Concept2 RowErgs and SkiErg, bringing to cycling the strengths and features Concept2 has previously brought to rowing and cross-country skiing.
If you are set up in a nice ‘Pain cave’ at home and not at a public health club, the temptation is to wear as little as possible. I see many pictures of guys riding Bike Ergs without shirts on and ladies with only small sports bras covering their torsos. Initially this may feel cooler once we have worked up the initial sweat and the fan is blowing nicely. As the session progresses though, a nice damp, technical fabric garment would actually do more to assist the body’s own cooling. Keep the fit snug and fitted to your body shape. Few things are as irritating as a wet T-shirt sagging off your shoulders while working out. On the Rower and Ski Erg this will actually start hampering your range of motion as the material clings and restricts.
Another reason to dress properly for your indoor training session is to protect your equipment. Have a look at the puddle of sweat underneath you when you train without a shirt on and compare that after you have covered up. I shall wager significantly less. What didn’t make it all the way to the floor ended up on your valuable Erg. At the very least this will save you time on cleaning up after your session but at best, increase the lifespan of your machine and reduce maintenance and wear and tear.
I am sure I don’t need to mention that cyclists on Bike Ergs should be wearing a good quality pair of cycling shorts. It is common practice to apply a chamois cream before any riding but indoors, with more dampness in the critical areas, this is even more important. Enough said!
This leads us nicely on to the next point – Get out of that sweaty kit as quickly as possible after your session. Things like saddle sores are a result of bacteria that thrive in hot, humid environments. Combine those factors with a bit of a chafe or tender spot from the saddle and saddle sores are an almost inevitable result. Also keep in mind that we are generating significant heat while we are working out but as soon as we stop that drops rapidly. The room that was just maintaining the temperature balance while we were smashing out intervals will rapidly feel pretty chilly once we stop. So, get out of there. Get out of your kit like Superman going through a phonebooth and get into the shower. Then you can reward yourself with a good coffee, smoothie or your choice of recovery meal.
I am sure I don’t need to preach the benefits of refuelling and eating for recovery. We all know that we need to replace and replenish and give the body what it needs to refill the tanks and rebuild the muscle damage after an intense workout. Training indoors will only increase your demands on simple hydration but also on lost electrolytes. So, plenty of fluids and it would not be bad idea to increase your intake of the minerals lost through sweat during the Summer months.