U.S. Olympians Seek the Heat to Train for Beijing Games

Richard A. Lovett
for National Geographic News
July 29, 2008

Hot, humid, and choked with smog, Beijing is presenting a unique set of challenges to Olympians preparing for the 2008 summer games, slated to start in China on August 8.

So this week some U.S. athletes have gone in search of a chance to continue their training under Beijing conditions, albeit a bit closer to home.

Houston, Texas, is "the closest we could get," said 10,000-meter runner Amy Yoder Begley of Oregon.

Yoder Begley and her teammates Kara Goucher (10,000 meters) and Galen Rupp (5,000 meters) will be in the Texas town for more than a week doing heat training.

With average July temperatures reaching into the mid-90s Fahrenheit (low 30s Celsius), Houston is slightly hotter than the August average of 85 Fahrenheit (29 Celsius) for Beijing.

Although Beijing's notorious air pollution remains a worry, running in the Houston heat should help the trio adapt to the potentially grueling environment they will face during competition.

Working Up a Sweat

"It is well documented that the performance of athletes who train exclusively in cool weather is impaired when they are suddenly confronted with hot, humid conditions," writes exercise physiologist Timothy Noakes in his classic training book, Lore of Running.

Studies have found that, as people get used to the heat, they sweat more, but the sweat becomes less salty. This is because the body adapts to conserve its supply of electrolytes—substances in the blood that must remain balanced for the body to work normally.

Also, metabolic rates slow down when a person gets used to the heat. This means that body temperatures don't go as high during exercise as they did before the adjustment.

Before their trip to Houston, Yoder Begley and her teammates were already undergoing a local version of heat training.

Continued on Next Page >>


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