8 Sun Protection Tips For The Hot Days of Triathlon Training

 

Here in Nashville, TN we are in the thick of the dog days of summer. Triathletes spend these days logging extra hours as our training culminates closer to an annual “A” race. These long hours of sun exposure put us at risk for serious problems such as cancer, premature skin aging, painful sunburns and eye damage. Lucky for us, we have several ways to combat these risks. Follow these 8 tips to avoid common mistakes, protect yourself to continue to train, and have fun in the sun.

  • Choose a correct SPF protection. SPF of 30 or greater will help protect you the best.
    • Sunscreen boasts a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating which is merely a term that defines UVB protection. This means that if bare skin turns red within 20 minutes of sun exposure, a SPF rating of 15 correlates to a 15 time reduction of that reddening. SPF can also be thought of as a measure of UVB filtration. Where a SPF 15 rating filters ~93 percent , SPF 30 filters ~97 percent, and SPF 50 filters ~98 percent of UVB exposure. Notice, how SPF is focused on effects of UVB. Choosing a sunscreen with broad spectrum UV coverage is also important by reducing the effects of UVA exposure as well.
  • Use broad spectrum sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB sun radiation.
    • The sun exposes us to different wavelengths of visible light and ultraviolet(UV) light. These forms of ultraviolet light are UVA (wavelengths of 320-400nm) UVB (wavelengths of 290nm-320nm) and UVC which is even shorter but absorbed by the ozone layer. The UVA and UVB wavelengths have been the center of research and our understanding of their effects on skin damage continues to evolve. UVA wavelengths have deeper penetration to the skin and have been linked to premature aging, wrinkles and age spots, while UVB can burn our skin. Both UVA and UVB have been linked to skin cancer.
  • Timing.
    • Apply at least 15-30 minutes prior to each training session.
    • Timing application appropriately allow the active ingredients to be absorbed in the skin.
  • Reapplication.
    • Reapply based on the recommended duration of the sunscreen you are using. Consider earlier application on days you are sweating heavily or planning swim sessions.
    • Very water-resistant products only maintain about 80 minutes of protection.
    • Water-resistant products maintain about 40 minutes of protection.
    • Reapply sooner if you towel off sweat as this can remove the sunscreen from your skin.
  • Apply a sufficient amount.
    • Helps achieve the products stated SPF protection. Use at least 1oz of sunscreen for full body coverage.
    • Apply to all areas exposed to the sun.
    • Don’t forget to get the top of your head, lips, ears, back, neck, face and any other areas that will be exposed.
  • Sunscreen comes in multiple topical formulations, choose the one or many that are right for you:
    • Lotions: Easy to apply and works well on hairy areas.
    • Gel: Works well on hairy areas but can be drying to skin (can be offset with moisturizing ingredients).
    • Sprays: Easy application.
    • Ointments: Difficult to rub off, high penetration to skin increase effectiveness, great spot protection, and additional protection to areas prone to chaffing (a triathletes worst enemy!) but tends to be greasy.
    • Sticks: Great spot protection, high penetration to skin increase effectiveness, and difficult to rub off.
  • Use common sense and other preventative strategies:
    • Consider clothing with UV protection.
    • Darker color clothing can absorb more UV radiation than lighter colors.
    • Fabrics built with a tighter weave can also reduce UV penetration.
    • Note UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating of clothes. UPF is defined by amount of sun radiation the particular piece of clothing allows to reach your skin. For example a UPF rating of 50 is equivalent to 1/50th of the suns radiation reaching your skin. Just because a piece of clothing does not show a UPF rating it may still have sun radiation protection. UPF ratings just means a garment has been tested in a laboratory.
    • Do not forget your sunglasses.
    • Make sure they are equipped with UV protecting lenses. Consider larger lenses and/or wraparound sunglasses that maximize coverage.
    • Try to complete sessions in areas that provide more shade and less direct sunlight.
    • Limit sessions during the peak of sun radiation from 10am to 4pm.
    • Be aware of medications that can increase risk of sunburn.
    • Talk with your local pharmacist and/or physician to discuss potential medications that can increase your risks of burning in the sun.