The dog days of summer are upon us. I don't need to tell you all it's hot out and when compounded with high humidity the heat can make exercising outside extremely risky. Overheating while training outdoors can lead to early fatigue at best, and heat stroke at worst. However, the heat doesn’t need to derail your training. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track and beat the heat:
1) Decrease intensity (slow down). The higher intensity of the workout, the more body heat is generated and the harder the body must work to keep the core temperature down. Slowing down your run, ride, or outdoor strength session will allow your body to regulate itself and can help keep you from overheating. For the runners and cyclists out there, use your heart rate monitor the body’s reaction to intensity and conditions. If the HR continues to climb beyond normal ranges, back off the pace. Your body is already working hard to keep you cool, don't push it to go faster.
2) Consider cardio training inside. Indoor cardio training is a great alternative to running in the heat. Break up the monotony of indoor run and bike training by doing intervals, repeats, or otherwise varying the tempo of your workouts- time flies and you’ll get a really good workout. Laborious as it can be, riding or running indoors beats collapsing from heat exhaustion or (worse) having to stop and walk home.
3) Stay hydrated. Drinking on a hot day goes without saying, but knowing how much can be a mystery. While experienced endurance athletes know their sweat rate (how much fluid you lose due to perspiration- I lose almost 3 lbs of fluid an hour), an easy test to see if you’re adequately hydrated is checking urine color. Yours should be clear to slightly yellow (think Crystal Light), not dark like apple juice. Drink before you get thirsty, starting hours and days before your outdoor runs, rides, and workouts. On really hot days, don't just rely on water. As you sweat, you lose essential electrolytes that need to be replenished. If your workout is lasting longer than an hour, OR the day is very hot or humid, rehydrate with a sports drink that includes sodium, potassium, calcium, etc. Gatorade, Nuun, Infinit, Scratch, Powerade, etc. all work well.
4) Utilize the shade. Aim to work out in pre-dawn hours or in a shady area to minimize sun exposure. Air temperatures can feel up to 15 degrees warmer in the sun, so use the shade. Several years ago during a particularly hot Boston Marathon I watched the lead Kenyan runners make a beeline off the route to run in the shade of a group of trees along the opposite side of the street. For them it was worth the extra few seconds it took to cross and run to have the cooling effect of shade, even if it was only for a few strides. The shade can be several degrees cooler, so use it! Wear a hat, visor etc. for your own portable shade.
5) Water is better in you than on you. This is another plug for adequate hydration- while pouring water over your head while exercising can help to cool the skin and bring temporary relief, drinking while training is the best use of your water. Being dehydrated by only 3% can affect performance, so carry water with you if you run or ride, and have it close by if you’re strength training outdoors. There are numerous styles of hydration belts, backpacks, and hand-held bottles to choose from.
6) Stop if you feel dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated. For many, the thought of bailing on a workout or disappointing yourself or others is frustrating. But finishing the workout isn't worth compromising your health. Stop if you don’t feel well. If the symptoms don't subside within the next few minutes, seek medical attention. Don't "tough it out." Hang it up, regroup, rest and hit it hard again when you feel better.
By following these 6 tips, you’ll be successful in not letting the heat derail your outdoor training, even during the hottest parts of the summer