The aims of this study are to explore the effectiveness of mixed active and passive heat acclimation (HA), controlling the relative intensity of exercise by heart rate (HR) in paratriathletes (PARA), and to determine the adaptation differences to able-bodied (AB) triathletes.
Seven elite paratriathletes and 13 AB triathletes undertook an 8-day HA intervention consisting of five HR-controlled sessions and three passive heat exposures (35°C, 63% relative humidity). On the first and last days of HA, heat stress tests were conducted, whereby thermoregulatory changes were recorded during at a fixed, submaximal workload. The AB group undertook 20 km cycling time trials pre- and post-HA with performance compared to an AB, non-acclimated control group.
During the heat stress test, HA lowered core temperature (PARA: 0.27 ± 0.32°C; AB: 0.28 ± 0.34°C), blood lactate concentration (PARA: 0.23 ± 0.15 mmol l-1; AB: 0.38 ± 0.31 mmol l-1) with concomitant plasma volume expansion (PARA: 12.7 ± 10.6%; AB: 6.2 ± 7.7%; p ≤ 0.047). In the AB group, a lower skin temperature (0.19 ± 0.44°C) and HR (5 ± 6 bpm) with a greater sweat rate (0.17 ± 0.25 L h-1) were evident post-HA (p ≤ 0.045), but this was not present for the PARA group (p ≥ 0.177). The AB group improved their performance by an extent greater than the smallest worthwhile change based on the normal variation present with no HA (4.5 vs. 3.7%).
Paratriathletes are capable of displaying partial HA, albeit not to same extent as AB triathletes. The HA protocol was effective at stimulating thermoregulatory adaptations with performance changes noted in AB triathletes.