With the dog days of summer upon us, is your desire to train in the heat lost in the wind? Do you feel like a slug and your ability to go long and hard is diminished? What if I told you that training in the heat can actually improve your performance? So long as precautions are taken, pushing yourself during your hot weather workouts may give you a boost in your next endurance event. Here is what you need to know to sweat safely outside and get your edge by training in the heat.
First, how can heat training boost exercise performance?
Heat acclimation training helps you to perform better in cooler environments because of the adaptations that take place. The human body has the ability to cool itself in hot conditions by sweating. For sweating and cooling to occur, the body must increase blood flow to the surface of the skin. Blood is the major carrier of heat, and sweat is composed of plasma, which comes from blood. So when we are sweating we are actually losing blood volume, not to mention all the electrolytes that are in the plasma. This is why proper hydration is vital. When the blood is pumped to the periphery to cool the surface of the skin there is less available to the heart to pump to the muscles. This impacts performance because now your heart rate increases to pump blood to the muscles to sustain the workload and thus, you max out sooner. For example, an 8-minute pace may feel like a 6-minute pace because the heart is having to work harder to support the workload. But on the flip side, your body quickly adapts and increases blood volume (as long as it stays hydrated) to support what the body needs. When you head to cooler environments your body has adapted and is pumping my oxygen to the muscles to help boost your performance. So, lace up those shoes, grab your hydration and hit the trails.
Tips to Manage the Heat
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You hear it enough I am sure. Be sure to drink throughout your day to stay hydrated and once you start exercising, consume about 24 ounces of fluids per hour of exercise. If you are exercising for about an hour water should be fine. But if you are going longer than an hour, be sure to get in some electrolytes, especially sodium.
2. Pre-cool your body by wetting it down with water or by sitting in an air-conditioned car. Getting your core temperature down before you even start has not shown to change performance but can mentally make you feel better. And since so much of endurance running is mental I say take any edge you can get.
3. Wear breathable clothing. Avoid cotton fabrics as they trap sweat and heat against the body. Yes, your body sweats to cool itself but it is the evaporation of the sweat that actually cools the surface of your skin. Wear synthetics or moisture-wicking fabrics to transfer the sweat from your skin to an outer layer for evaporation. Also, lighter colors reflect the sun and help make a bit of difference.
4. Give yourself time. The fitter you are the faster you will adapt. If you are new to training in the heat start slow and go short. Each subsequent day go a little farther and a little harder. It will take about 10 days for your body to acclimatize to the heat. Once you have adapted you can train normally. Just understand you may be slower through the summer months.
5. Run early or late. No sense in torturing yourself with midday scorching temps. It is hot enough to help acclimate and get in a decent workout early before sunrise or later after sundown.
6. Listen to your body. Early signs of heat illness include fatigue, lightheadedness, cessation of sweating, nausea, and disorientation. If you begin to experience any of the symptoms you must stop working out and seek a cooler environment.
7. You will become the tortoise during the summer months. You must slow down. Research has shown that the brain will protect the body during physical exertion and will limit muscle activity to keep the core temperature from rising too high, it is the environmental heat that prevents the heat from dissipating and causes possible heat illness. So, do not expect to perform at the same level on hot days. Instead, maintain your normal level of exertion and let the chips fall where they may.
While running on hot days is not as enjoyable as running on cooler days there are still plenty of benefits. Plan accordingly, be safe, and get out there and get your training in and see what superhero you can turn into at your next event.
Be Healthy, Train Smart, Have Fun
PRS Fit Head Coach