You Train & Race Outdoors - Here are 4 Tips to Keep You Sun Protected

So, here’s the thing. I may be a Dermatology PA spending my days removing skin cancer, but I am also an endurance athlete who spends a large amount of time training in the Florida sun.


Theresa Helsel, Dermatology PA: 4 Tips to Keep You Sun Protected


Theresa running outdoors in the hot Florida sun

Theresa training in the hot Florida sun.


How do I reconcile this? Is it possible to find a balance? Of course! No one should ever make you feel bad for enjoying the outdoors. However, it all goes back to a healthy respect for the sun.

Here are my top tips that I use when training & racing outdoors:

TIP #1: Regardless of whether or not you are planning to spend time outside, get in the habit of using a daily sunscreen.

You would be surprised how much sun you are exposed to during the day simply driving your car, walking through parking lots, or sitting near a window.

My three requirements for sunscreen are:

  • SPF of 30 or higher
  • Preferably zinc and/or titanium-based - Zinc and titanium are considered physical blockers which is great for sensitive skin, much better for the environment, and, best of all, they protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. There are some decent chemical blockers out there, but many do not protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.
  • A sunscreen that you actually like to use - You’ll be a lot less likely to use something that feels thick or greasy, so find one that feels good on your skin.
TIP #2: Try to exercise or enjoy the outdoors before 10am and after 4pm.

I get it, this is not always practical. When I am training for a full Ironman and need to get in a six-hour ride, there is little chance of this.

When I know I am going to be out in the sun I always keep sunscreen in my bike box and reapply every two hours. I also use UPF arm sleeves (Zoot Sports makes really good UPF 50+ ones) that I wear even in the heat of the Florida summer. Believe it or not, they actually keep my arms cooler.


TIP #3: Be aware of the skin on and around my face and wear a hat or visor, sunglasses and sunscreen to cover these areas.

I always apply sunscreen to my face, ears, neck and chest. Women tend to experience a lot of sun damage on their chest so don’t forget to apply sunscreen there too.

Theresa works out outside with a visor for sun protection

Seriously, you won't find Theresa outside without a hat or visor.


TIP #4: When I am racing a triathlon, I always take advantage of on course sunscreen. Most longer events will have sunscreen in transition and I always keep sunscreen in my transition bag so I can easily reapply. It only takes a few extra seconds and it makes a big difference. There’s no reason to be both sore and sunburned after a race.  

Theresa on the bike course of an Ironman race.

Theresa on the bike course of Ironman Florida 2018



Follow Theresa on social @theres.a.triathlete