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Here comes the sun May 19, 2010

Posted by bettyjoan in Races, Uncategorized.
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Another reason I love May is that it is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.  As a melanoma survivor and a budding endurance athlete, I am constantly striving to balance outdoor training with the need to take care of my skin.

I am (affectionately, I hope) known as the sunscreen Nazi on my team, because I always remind people to apply pre-workout (even providing it for folks who may have forgotten – I always have enough for an army).  I also have a mean streak, though, as I have been known to lightly smack the crispy skin of someone who neglected to heed my many warnings.

So how can you, as a triathlete, protect yourself during training and racing?  Here are some tips that have done me well:

* The sun is generally strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM.  So, if at all possible, try to train before or after those hours (or indoors, if necessary).

* The simplest, most obvious tip is, “Wear sunscreen.”  But, as with everything in the world of triathlon, it’s more complicated than that.  As far as race day is concerned, in my experience, I find that it works best to lather up AFTER getting body marked.  Otherwise, the Sharpies will slip and slide and the markings won’t last long.  The less rubbing, the better, so a reliable spray sunscreen is a good investment.

* Speaking of spray sunscreen (or any sunscreen, for that matter), DO NOT assume that just because the container says “waterproof” or “sweatproof” that you can apply once and forget it.  I always keep a can of spray sunscreen right on my transition mat, and it is so quick and easy to spray the most critical places before hopping on that bike or scurrying off on that run.

* What ARE the most critical places?  Anyplace where skin is exposed needs to be sunscreened, but there are a few in particular that are easy to forget.  Make sure to hit the back/nape of your neck, your shoulderblades (where your tri top might move as you cycle more aggressively), your ears (especially if they stick out like mine, haha), and the small of your back (again, as you move, your tri top might ride up).  I also pay extra special attention to my face, since that is more sensitive skin.

* Don’t forget to protect your eyes and lips!  Sunglasses and lip balm are your friends.  Wearing a hat is also a good idea, for your scalp’s sake (and I can tell you from experience, a sunburnt scalp is NOT pleasant).

* So, what is the SPF number all about?  It stands for Sun Protection Factor, and it is a laboratory measure of how well the skin is protected from UVB rays (the rays that cause sunburn).  Choosing SPF 30 doesn’t mean that you can stay in the sun twice as long as if you’d chosen SPF 15.  🙂  Also, remember that UVB rays are only part of the equation – UVA rays are actually more likely to cause skin cancers.  Choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen will help protect your skin from both types of radiation.

* Reapply, reapply, reapply!!!

* Don’t assume that because it is cloudy outside that it will stay that way (or that UV rays magically disappear when it is overcast).  The weather can change in an instant, and as someone wise once told me, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

If you have other sun-savvy tips and tricks, share ’em in the comments!  And be nice to your skin this tri season.

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