SURVIVING THE HEAT
Summer is a great time to train. However the heat and humidity can play havoc on your workout. The warmer the weather, the more challenging it becomes to adequately cool your body. Heart rates are higher and breathing is more rapid than at your normal pace. The body has to work double time in the heat. The good news is there are a few tricks for beating the heat and getting in your workouts this summer.
1. TRAIN EARLY IN THE MORNING OR EVENING (OR INSIDE)
It's the coolest, most serene part of the day, and there's nothing like a morning workout to boost your mood all day long. If the morning doesn't work for you, the long daylight hours make for lots of evening options.
If there is a heat alert or poor air quality day, take your workout indoors. You won't get any super-human reward for pushing in dangerous heat and it most likely will take your body longer to recover from the workout. Train smart!
2. DRINK LIKE CRAZY
Even if you don't feel thirsty, drink at least 8 oz. of fluid each hour, and more if you're outside or tend to perspire a lot. You'll have a better workout with adequate fluid intake, and you'll feel better, too. By keeping your water storage high, you'll also improve your body's cooling mechanisms.
For workouts shorter than 45 minutes, water works just fine. For longer workouts, research suggests consuming about a cup of sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes to fuel your muscles and maintain electrolyte levels.
3. ACCLIMATE WITH CARE
You need to acclimate to the heat in a safe and gradual manner, not haphazardly. For the first two weeks of hot weather, do no speed sessions and keep your midday workouts to 30 easy minutes at most. (You can go longer on cool mornings or evenings.) In 10 days to two weeks, you should be fully acclimated. Your body will gradually become better at cooling itself in the warmer weather allowing you to continue to train at your normal pace.
4. GO LIGHT AND LOOSE
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. The former will reflect the sun's rays better; the latter will enable you to take advantage of any breeze, including the one you make by moving. The new sports-specific synthetics are better than cotton. They stay drier and wick moisture better than natural fibers do.
5. SCREEN IT OUT
To protect yourself from skin cancer and other skin damage, use waterproof sunscreen liberally. Do so even on partly cloudy days; cloud cover does not block harmful ultraviolet rays. Another benefit: Sunscreen can decrease your skin and body temperatures, so you'll stay cooler during exercise. Wear sunglasses that filter UVA and UVB rays, and a hat or visor to protect your skin and eyes from the sun.
6. MAXIMIZE HEAD ROOM
You lose a major portion of body heat through your head, which is bad in winter but good in summer. So on hot days, don't cover your head tightly with a hat. Cover it, for sure, but with a loose-fitting hat, preferably made of mesh or some other breathable material.
7. POUR IT ON
There's nothing like the psychological relief of pouring cold water over your head during a hot workout. But don't depend on it to keep your body temperature down, because it won't. To help you cool down, you need to drink water.
8. START SLOWLY
Starting your workout slowly is particularly beneficial on hot days. The slower you start, the longer you'll keep your body heat from reaching the misery threshold. If you normally train at an eight-minute mile pace, for example, do your first mile at a 10-minute pace.
9. WORK WITH THE HEAT
Work with the heat. Go by your effort level rather than your typical pace until you acclimate. If you are new to running, add power walk breaks every 4 to 8 minutes to cool yourself during your runs. It is all about managing your body core temperature and not allowing it to rise too much, risking overheating and really slowing down. Like a car, if the temperature rises too high you will overheat.
10. RECOGNIZE THE DANGER ZONE
Heat Cramps: Spasms in the abdomen, arms, calves and hamstrings. Respond by stopping activity for the day, sip a sports drink and gently massage the cramp.
Heat Exhaustion: Heavy sweating, headache, dizziness, nausea. Respond by stopping activity, get inside or in the shade, sip a sports drink and see a doctor if symptoms continue.
Heat Stroke: Confusion, rapid breathing, fainting. Respond by calling for emergency help, get inside or in the shade, cool the skin with a rag.