Whether it is maintaining your training whilst abroad in warmer climates or here in the UK during the few days of hot weather over the summer, or training for an event overseas that will require you to compete in higher temperatures than you are used to, exercising in the heat must be treated with caution.
Training in a simulated hot environment has long been accepted as a proven way to improve your performance. It is uncomfortable, but science says training in the heat is worth the trouble: Hot-weather workouts teach your body to sweat more (which helps dissipate heat and provides a larger reservoir of fluid to lose in sweat before your performance is compromised), it increases your blood-plasma volume (which benefits cardiovascular fitness), and it lowers your core body temp. As you train in the heat your body adapts, increasing your blood volume to make it flow to your skin/working muscles more easily. The enhanced blood flow can assist in reducing or even getting rid of some niggles and tightness too. All in all, just some adaptations that help you perform better in any weather.
Some serious athletes may use heat chamber sessions but in most cases this is not essential as you can train your body to perform in increased temperatures in a number of ways such as including training in layers of insulating clothing, regular saunas or hot yoga sessions. Other factors may come into it such as performing in hot weather at high altitude, at sea level or in a polluted environment to prepare for an important event such as the summer Olympic Games but we are not looking at those factors in this article. In a nutshell, your body doesn’t really care how it gets hot, the response by the body would be the same a described above.
Know your limits
Obviously, seriously overheating yourself can be very dangerous. Be sensible! If you are training in hot conditions always tell someone what you are doing and where, back off well before the signs of heat illness (such as a sunstroke) begin, never put yourself in a situation where you could run out of drinks and always have a way to cool yourself down. If running when you are enduring hot temperatures, trade heat radiating roads and pavements for dirt or grass; run shaded loops perhaps under trees or in the woods, refuel on water and ice; and go by feel instead of pace. If you have scheduled in a long run and starting early in the morning isn’t an option, make sure you have had a solid night’s rest, which enhances heat tolerance. Avoid out-and-back routes (which don’t give you the option to bail out), and tweak your expectations: Many of us are around 10 percent slower in the heat. Perhaps try running for time instead of distance on super-hot days.
Try to follow these top safety tips for training in hot weather:
1. Proper Clothing
Make sure you wear light coloured clothing that's breathable if you are going to be running, hiking or playing a sport where the conditions are favourable to get a heat-related illness. Light-coloured clothing allows the body to cool down through perspiration.
2. Hydration Requirements
The basic rule of thumb is drink when your body wants a drink. This is a rough guide as it doesn’t take into account the level of activity, where the activity is being held and at what temperature, the individual perspiration rate, level of fitness, age, ethnic origin and background and so on. If you are in a race, you don't have to stop by every water station. You might want to use the water station to use the water to pour over your head and neck to cool your body instead, it all depends. We are all different and it is a personal choice but we tend to learn a lot from our previous experiences. Too much fluid intake can create hyponatremia (water intoxication) or low blood sodium. If you tend to zone out when you are running or exercising, then you can follow the 15- to 20-minute fluid intake rule and even set a timer on your watch or phone to remind you to take on water (fluids).
3. Hot and Humid
You need to be cautious with your fluid intake when it is extremely hot and humid. If you feel like you have not had a sip of fluid, and you are not thirsty or sweating, then it is likely your body is going into survival mode. In this case you need to get out of the heat because you are at the beginning phase of a heat-related illness.
If the temperature starts to rise, and you are sweating quite a bit, then have some salty foods. If you have high blood pressure you should always speak with your doctor first. After an hour of activity, you need to start replenishing your carbohydrates (glycogen), but also essential electrolytes, like sodium. Minerals are getting used up by the body which may lead to muscle fatigue, muscle cramping, so ensure you keep replenishing minerals, especially magnesium.
5. Practice Ahead of Time
During your training schedule, if you can, where possible, try to find days that will be similar to the event and practice that day with the proper clothing, hydration and your food requirements. This will give you an idea on what you need to improve on or how your body will react under these conditions.
6. Cool Down
When you are done with either your practice or event, ensure you take time to cool down. Even in those hot temperatures, walk around (don't sit) to make sure you re-circulate the blood throughout your body. Proper venous return (decent blood flow back to the heart) is essential. You can go inside to a cooler room to cool off, but don't sit—keep moving. Depending on heat and factors mentioned above, spend 15 to 20 minutes drinking fluids, eating small snacks, and cooling down before you sit.
Many people will suffer unnecessarily or their bodies will just give out during these hot and humid conditions because they fail to prepare and plan. You set yourself up for success when you plan ahead of time. Practice and prepare so you are aware of the dangers that go with exercising in hot temperatures.
The key is always to listen to your body and make sure you are drinking enough fluids, staying cool and eating the correct foods at the right time.
For further details and/or for individual guidance please do not hesitate to contact me. Enjoy the sunshine!
Be(come) Fit For Anything