- Does location affect athletic performance?
- Temperature vs. athletic performance
- Culture vs. athletic performance
- Rules and regulations vs. athletic performance
- Altitude vs. athletic performance
- Environmental conditions vs. athletic performance
- Best countries to race and train
Racing In Different Countries: External Factors VS. Performance
The race venue is always a crucial factor in every race, regardless of the type—triathlon, running, cycling, or swimming. Home venues or countries can sometimes improve an athlete’s performance, while a completely different venue may negatively impact it. This stresses the importance of location in races, and how adapting to these locations and the environmental changes they bring can change an athlete’s overall skill level.
Let’s talk about how racing in different countries and continents can impact an athlete’s performance and overall skill level, and why serious athletes and racers should aim to compete or train in various countries or environments.
Does Location Really Affect an Athlete’s Performance?
Location is one of the external factors believed to affect an athlete’s performance. Many research papers today have studied the effects of location and other environmental factors on performance, and there’s truth to each and every one of these studies and experiments.
According to a published research paper written by Chinese researchers Minyong Song and Yang Zhang from Xi’an University of Science and Technology, several factors involved in the location affect the athlete’s body mechanism and emotion.
“The geographical environment influences the emergence and development of sports events in different ways. Climate changes will affect the conditions of sports, but also interfere with the athletes’ body mechanism and emotion, thereby affecting athletic ability. Topography has a great influence on the emergence and development of sports,” said the researchers.
The paper also emphasized that the geographical environment is also closely related to sports culture, human culture, and ethnic culture, so the environment also affects the athlete’s emotion.
In conclusion, all external environmental factors based on the location of a race will produce positive and negative changes to an athlete, depending on his or her mental, emotional, and physical condition.
How Continents and Countries Affects Performance
The external factors in a race or sports event always contribute to an athlete’s physical performance and psychological well-being. The location, being the main external factor, comes with sub-factors like venue, temperature, culture, rules and regulations, and more.
These countries and continents have different settings and environments, so let’s tackle how each of these factors contribute to or affect an athlete’s performance.
In hot weather, athletes will be required to exert more energy as their body temperature rises quickly. This effect can then decrease athletic performance brought about by excessive fluid loss, impaired thermoregulation, and physical discomfort. The athlete’s capability to improve his body temperature depends on the body type and prepared strategies against hot weather. According to a study published in the Pflügers Archiv – European Journal of Physiology, athletes with a smaller body size can produce and store less heat than athletes with heavier body mass.
Cold weather, meanwhile, can affect breathing and muscle performance. Breathing in cold air while doing intense physical activity can increase the risk of hypothermia. Cold weather also slows down most of the body’s chemical processes, especially processes in the nervous system. This can cause muscle contraction. Athletes exposed to cold weather can feel involuntary muscle cramps, twitches, and spasms more often than those in a normal environment.
The ability of an athlete to survive these conditions without serious negative consequences depends on his or her body composition, tolerance, and training. Again, athletes with heavier builds have a lower ratio between the skin surface area and body mass, so they are at a disadvantage when it comes to heat removal and heat storage. Athletes with low tolerance to cold, meanwhile, can be more at risk of hypothermia.
Athletes who will or have already competed in different countries and continents with varying temperatures can increase their heat and cold tolerance and develop new strategies to survive them.
Sports can bring together people and communities, enhancing a person or a group’s social and cultural life. But what if it’s the other way around? What happens when culture affects sports and athletic performance?
Culture in one country or local region mostly affects the athlete’s psychological functions. Culture in one country or region can either break down or promote cultural barriers, stereotypes, discrimination, and prejudice. However, it still depends on an individual or one group of people. The opinion of one does not represent an entire nation.
Cultural barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination can affect an athlete’s way of thinking, and as a result, his or her physical performance. A certain stereotype or discrimination can change an athlete’s mentality—for better or worse. To prevent the worst, sports organizations, coaches, and athletic federations should actively nip the bad cultures in the bud and promote cultural understanding in every sports event.
Athletes who have already competed in various countries, continents, and regions, were certainly exposed to these cultural differences, particularly discrimination. With the right mentality, they evolved into better versions of themselves—mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Cross-country athletes can become athletes with better understanding of cultural differences
Rules and Regulations
Marathons and other sports events usually follow world criteria for cross-country races, but every country and continent have different rules and regulations, regardless of the sport, due to local laws, culture, and traditions. These rules and regulations can affect performance if the changes are physical.
Here are some race rules and regulations cross-country races that athletes may or may not encounter:
- Wearing of uniformed tri suits or wetsuits
- Time limit
- Deployment of special assistance team
- No cutting, folding, or bending of bibs
- Ban on headphones or earphones
- No spitting
- Non-emergency stop (e.g., tying of shoelaces on the road)
Altitude in different cross-country races may affect runners and triathletes. All countries have multiple race locations with high elevations, but here are some countries and continents with race venues that have high elevations: Nepal, Antarctica, China, Chile, and Mexico.
Race venues with high altitude can negatively affect athletes who are not acclimated to higher elevations. These can put them at a distinct disadvantage, creating training and adjustment limitations. After all, there’s less air and oxygen at high altitude. If athletes won’t be able to adjust to these conditions, it could lead to altitude sickness, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
Athletes who compete in cross-country races can better adjust their bodies and training requirements, regardless of the race location and altitude level. This puts them at a disadvantage over other runners with no cross-country experience.
Environmental hazards like air and water pollution can also affect individual health and athletic performance, especially long-distance endurance sports like running, swimming, cycling, and triathlon.
Athletes with allergies or respiratory issues are at risk of the consequences of these environmental hazards. Poor air quality or high pollen count can lead to breathing difficulty or sabotage the athlete’s breathing techniques.
Understanding the environmental conditions of the race location is important to limit exposure through training and taking the proper precautions. Athletes who compete in cross-country races and sports events would have an idea of how to protect themselves better against environmental hazards during training.
Best Countries to Race and Train
Cross-country racing can improve overall athletic performance physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is the best way to challenge oneself, experience new sports cultures, and meet people of the same wavelength. If you want to discover your true potential as an athlete and improve your overall skill and mental fortitude, here are the top countries that host some of the best and biggest international races in the world:
Italy, located on the southern flank of Europe, offers a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters all year round. With these seasons, it’s easy to hold winter and summer races and conduct training by simply targeting the best months that are not too hot and not too cold. In Italy, you can join winter or summer sports training camps and races in the city or provinces.
Best annual and international sports races in Italy:
- IRONMAN 70.3 Italy
- Elbaman Tuscan Archipelago
- XTERRA Trentino-Dolomiti Paganella (Cross Triathlon European Championship)
- CHALLENGE Riccione
- Maratona di Roma
The United States of America, being a powerhouse and huge country, of course, offers some of the best international races and race locations in the world. In just one country, athletes can compete in different international races with varying temperatures, altitudes, and rules and regulations, and environmental conditions.
Best annual and international sports races in the US:
- Walt Disney World Marathon
- Escape from Alcatraz
- California International Marathon
- SavageMan Triathlon Festival
- Boston Marathon
As a northwestern country in the Maghreb region of North Africa, most parts of Morocco offer a good view of the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Here, winters can be wet and summer heat can be warm and dry. Spring, the most popular season in the country, offers pleasant temperatures and blooming green landscapes. Most international competitions are held during the summer and spring.
Best annual and international sports races in Morocco:
- International Marathon of Marrakech
- Dune Marathon (Marathon in the Desert)
- Fez International Marathon
- Moroccan Marathon des Sables (6-day ultramarathon)
- Marathon International de Rabat
China, the largest country in Asia and the most populous country in the world, opens its doors to some of the biggest international marathons in the world year by year. China’s year-round climate is represented by dry seasons and wet monsoon. Winters are cold and dry, while summers are warm and moist. This is the best place to be if you want to see athletes and sports organizers from all over the world.
Best annual and international sports races in China:
- The Great Wall Marathon
- Beijing Marathon
- Shanghai International Marathon
- Beijing International Triathlon
- Guangzhou Marathon
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world and the largest country in Oceania. Australia is also the flattest and driest inhabited continent in the world, so athletes who aren’t acclimated to high elevations yet can start their world racing portfolio in Australia. The country has four different seasons across its eight states and territories, offering race locations with different temperatures and environmental conditions.
Best annual and international sports races in Australia:
- Great Ocean Road Marathon
- Australian Outback Marathon
- The Canberra Times Marathon Festival
- Noosa Triathlon Festival
- Melbourne Marathon
Brazil is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. It is home to the largest rainforest on Earth, the Amazon rainforest, so it can host various international races with the best environmental conditions. In terms of weather and climate, Brazil offers tropical and arid climates all year, depending on the location. The latter means there’s an excess of evaporation over precipitation in a certain area.
Best annual and international sports races in Brazil:
- Maratona Caixa da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro
- Curitiba Marathon
- Maratona Internacional de Floripa
- Jungle Marathon – Floresta Nacional de Tapajos
- Sao Paulo Int’l Marathon
The beautiful country of France, which houses the city of love, also hosts big international marathons for runners across the world. France has numerous forests and mountain ranges, perfect for marathons and triathlons. Northern France is typically humid and cool, while southern France usually offers warmer and drier climate.
Best annual and international sports races in France:
- Marathon de la Baie du Mont Saint-Michel
- Marathon du Medoc
- Alpe D’Huez Triathlon
- Ironman France
- Les 20K de Paris
Canada takes pride in its sports culture and economy. Aside from focusing on international football and ice hockey competitions, Canada also hosts international marathons and sporting events dedicated to endurance sports. Summers in Canada are short and warm. Winters, meanwhile, are dry, windy, and freezing.
Best annual and international sports races in Canada:
- Niagara Falls International Marathon
- Extreme Triathlon Canada Man / Woman
- Mont-Tremblant Ironman
- Ironman 70.3
- Toronto Marathon
Competing in different countries and continents requires dedication, determination, and sacrifices. Even if you have the main resources, such as money and time, to compete in faraway locations, there are still many factors to consider.
Before you register, book your tickets, and plan your accommodation, make sure you’re prepared. Research everything about the sports event and its location, and adjust your training based on the environmental conditions of the location.