Training in the Heat and what it can do for you!
What are you getting yourself into?
688 Words - About 5-6 minutes of reading time.
With the warm weather that we have been having lately, training – whether at Barbell Samurai, or your sporting field of choice – hasn’t been the most pleasant. Instead of skipping your training session, or opting to train at a cooler venue, research has shown that there are benefits to exercising in the heat (above 36⁰C) and that you only need 3-5 consecutive days of exercising in the heat to receive up to 70% of the maximum adaptation. Here are some of the benefits associated with training in the heat consistently:
- Increased plasma volume and decreased heart rate during exercise allow for a more efficient cardiovascular system that has a greater capacity to deliver oxygen to the muscles
- Decreased salt loss in sweat improves the body’s ability to maintain electrolyte balance which helps to regulate blood pressure, maintain nerve function and maintain muscle function
- Improved sweat response improves the body’s ability to cool down during exercise
- Increased blood flow to the skin helps to transfer heat from the body to the surrounding environment, thereby keeping your core temperature lower during exercise, thus preventing you from overheating
- Increased endurance (both aerobic and anaerobic) resulting from the increased capacity to deliver oxygen around the body, recovery from anaerobic activity, and the ability to sustain aerobic activity will both be improved
These changes and resulting benefits can be maintained for up to 1 month after your exercise in the heat has finished and transfer over to training in cooler temperatures too. So, for athletes, whether they be endurance or field sport, and whether they play in climate controlled environment or outdoors in the elements, there are well researched benefits to training in the heat.
With that being said, exercising in the heat does present some risks compared to exercising at lower temperatures due to the increased demands of trying to keep the body from overheating.
Precautions to take while exercising in the heat.
- Increased sweating compared to exercising in “normal” temperatures means there is an increased risk of dehydration, both in the individual session, and across multiple sessions on consecutive days. To ensure your safety making sure you consume lots of fluids, before, during and after sessions in the heat is a must.
- There is a risk of getting heat illness if you go too hard to soon. Don’t try to go at the exact same intensity as you would during a session on a cool day. Do a lighter training session the first time, as assess how you feel during and after. Progressively increase the intensity from there.
Some easy ways to tell if you are getting dehydrated is feeling thirsty or a change in colour of your urine (getting darker). A more immediate way to monitor your fluid during a workout is to weight yourself before your session, then at the end of the session. Whatever weight you have lost replace 1.5x that with fluid. E.g. weight went from 81.9kg down to 80.9kg in a 60 min workout. That is a loss of 1kg, so multiply that by 1.5 is 1.5kg. Aim to consume 1.5L of water in the following 60-90 min, and if the amount of fluid needing to be consumed is more than 1L, look to include an electrolyte replacement such as Powerade, Gatorade or Maximus into your fluid replacement. Aim for about 500-600mL of electrolyte replacement for every litre of water.
In summary, don’t use the heat as an excuse to not train. Modify your training so that you can still complete everything you need to. You can decrease your intensity (lower weight, lower the distance you run), increase your rest breaks (between sets or between efforts) or reduce your volume (total sets/reps, total efforts) to ensure you don’t overdo it. After the first week of training you will have received most of the adaptations and can start to progress back towards your usual intensity and volume and you should find that your performance has improved by a little but, rather than the slight drop off you would have from not training that week during the heat.