Be prepared, as adaptation is the key to performance whilst travelling.
Travelling for competition requires a lot of preparation. If you are travelling as a group make sure that you know which parts of the trip your manager or coach is dealing with and which you should organise.
Jet lag, which occurs when you have crossed a large number of time zones, is the result of your body's natural rhythms having to adapt to a new cycle of day and night. It may last for some days, depending on the number of time zones crossed. Most people find that it is more severe when travelling towards the east as opposed to westwards. As well as a general feeling of tiredness, the symptoms may include; loss of concentration, loss of appetite, headache, dizziness, nausea and constipation.
Adapt to the local time as soon as possible. Alter your watch to the local time on the plane and try not to keep converting it back to “Home” time. To adjust fully, most people should allow up to 1 day for each time zone shift. Prolonged daytime napping in the new location should be avoided for a few days, as this may act to keep you with your old rhythms. When crossing fewer number of time zones (3-5 hours) train at mid-day or early in the evening after a westward flight. This will help your body to resynchronise and keep you awake. Train during early evenings after an eastward flight: This will help your body clock to adjust in the right direction. Avoid large meals and caffeine containing beverages late at night as this may disturb your sleep. Stay in daylight or bright artificial light during the day.
Coping with heat
Your performance may be reduced if you are not used to exercising in the heat. It will be further reduced if you become dehydrated. A minimum of 7 to 10 days heat acclimatisation is advisable before competition.
During competition and training be aware of symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness and lack of co-ordination. You may need to modify your warm-up so that you do not overheat. Use appropriate sun protection.
When the humidity is high, less sweat will evaporate so the body temperature rises. In an effort to cool, the body will sweat more which can quickly lead to dehydration. Dehydration may reduce your performance. If you are thirsty you are already dehydrated.
The oxygen composition of the air is the same all over the world, but at altitude the pressure is lowered. This reduction in pressure has little effect on someone who is resting, but greatly affects people when they start to exercise. The reduction in performance at altitude is greater in endurance sports which require more oxygen. The maximum rate at which the body can use oxygen (the VO2 max) decreases with altitude and endurance is impaired. Both will improve with acclimatisation over a period of two to three weeks. At first you may suffer from tiredness as you exercise.
Performance is reduced when the body is cold. The maximum rate at which the body can use oxygen (VO2max) is reduced. Also lactic acid will appear in the blood at lower levels of activity. Both of these will reduce performance.
Several layers of thin clothing are better than one thick one. This will insulate you better from the cold and layers can be removed as you get warm. The hands and feet should be well protected. Avoid alcohol as this dilates the blood vessels which will increase the rate of heat loss.
As water is lost from your body you lose weight
1 kg weight loss = 1 litre of water loss
This should be replaced with about 1 1/2 times the quantity of fluid lost (to allow for normal kidney function).
Y. Ramakrishna is a Sports Performance Enhancement Specialist at FitnessOne India Ltd.