November 26, 2016 Meredtih Kessler

Suntan Lotion use in Endurance Racing


There is so much that goes into training, preparation, and competing in endurance races. Whether you are a marathoner, cyclist, triathlete, or many other slow twitch muscle related sports athlete, we all know what it takes to get yourself to the start line as close to 100% as possible to attempt to reach your racing goals.

Suntan Lotion use in Endurance Racing

As the mind contemplates the big items needed to be prepared for that all important race day, it’s the little things that could ultimately be your downfall. This could include trying something new on race day like a hydration drink that disagrees with your stomach, using a different tire your buddy recommends that doesn’t fit your wheel correctly, a new exercise for strength and speed training, or it can be something as seemingly helpful and benign as suntan lotion.

The advice that I give to a lot of first-time triathletes racing in their first event is to keep it simple and enjoy the day. Make sure you have your wetsuit, bike, and run gear in proper condition, trust your training and have fun from the sound of the start gun to slapping hands down the finishing shoot. However, as you become more deeply involved in your chosen endurance sport, it only makes sense that you have to pay attention to the small details in order to keep making improvements. This is particularly the case in the professional ranks where a faulty sneaker or inadequate nutrition or hydration advice can affect the outcome of your race to the point of being in the money or not being in the money.

The analogy I like to give is the sport of golf. When you start playing, you are happy go lucky, absorbing information, and happy if you get that one shot per eighteen holes that keeps you coming back for more. However, as the improvements become less dramatic, you over analyze every little detail to fine tune your game. The frustration is more evident when your shot is a little off, and the obsession becomes all encompassing. One small change, like the stickiness of your grip, could be the difference between being on the green or being in the bunker; it’s the little things that matter.

The reason I have written this foundation for this particular article is to reiterate the idea that something like suntan lotion may hurt your performance in endurance sports. It is commonly known that sweating is the body’s way to cool down; it is the internal air conditioner needed to maintain some semblance of temperature regulation not to overheat. Endurance athletes have to and will sweat during training and racing so they can maintain a steady speed without having bodily complications from overheating. What will happen to your race if something is impeding this natural cooling system?

Suntan lotion is a tremendous product. We have been educated on the evils of intense exposure to sunlight and, as endurance athletes, we receive our fair share of intense rays; it is just part of the sports we love, so we need to take measures to protect our skin. We have all seen the over sun-kissed athlete who is forty years old but looks like they are sixty. There is also the known danger of cancer; enough said suntan lotion is a good thing.

However, to create creams that are water and sweat resistant, a lot of lotions MAY impede the body to sweat. Through all my research, there have been limited studies on the topic and the data does not lean farther in one direction or the other. In my endless to pursuit to improve my endurance racing in the heat, I always want to leave no stone unturned in the search. I have asked the opinions of a few doctors who have recommended me to use Neutrogena Helioplex/Broad Spectrum, the Wet skin or Ultra Sheer, SPF 50. They contend that this brand of lotion you can sweat through and still be protected.

If you have read some of my articles, you know I stress to not trying anything new on race day. So, I practiced, trained, and used this brand of suntan lotion for a few months before some of my big heat races. The verdict is I have no idea if this particular brand made a difference. It was still hot, and I was still very uncomfortable. However, the psychological benefit of knowing that I had trained with a product that may improve my performance with no adverse effects was worth the effort. Also, if you are an endurance athlete, you know firsthand how debilitating a severe sunburn can be to your race. The perceived benefits of not applying suntan lotion because you think it will impede sweating are no match for a sunburn, which inevitably makes your march to the finish line tough. In an Ironman race, I am out on the course for, on average, nine hours; age groupers can be out there for sixteen hours. There is no excuse for not using suntan lotion in endurance racing.

The conclusion I have reached is to use suntan lotion as much as possible. It may be tough, in the heat of battle on the race course, to take the time or remember to apply lotion. However, your body will thank you if you do. As a professional triathlete, I use sunscreen before the swim and in the transition from bike to run. It may be an extra few seconds, but it could save my life. The unproven sweat impeding qualities of suntan lotion is no match for an uncomfortable race, weathered skin, and cancer.

Professional Triathlete Meredith Kessler –

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