When the sun comes out and temperatures rise, most people find that exercise becomes harder and the heat makes it tough to stay motivated. But that’s not to say you should hang up your trainers and eat ice cream during the summer months, it just takes a little more careful planning.
Take It Easy
I don’t say this very often, but when it’s really hot, it’s important not to push yourself too hard, and don’t be afraid to quit early or take breaks if you’re starting to overheat.
It's really important to get into the mindset that, when it's hot and humid, you’re just not going to perform at your best. This is because your body, especially your heart, has to work much harder just to keep you cool. Listen to your body, and avoid pushing on through if you start to feel dizzy, get a headache or notice that your performance has decreased significantly. Other signs to look out for are muscle cramps, a high heart rate, nausea, confusion, and a significant rise in skin temperature.
Take The Heat
The good news is that most people can acclimatise to exercising in the heat fairly easily. Start by exercising for less time and at a lower intensity and then gradually build up to longer, harder workouts.
Your body will start to adapt by sweating earlier, sweating more, developing an increase in blood volume, a lower body core temperature, and an overall improved ability to tolerate the heat.
It can take about 14 days to get acclimatised to exercising in the heat, and you’ll find that you can achieve a lot more, as your body starts to adapt.
Cool Times & Places
If trying to combat the heat isn't for you, then avoiding it is your best strategy. To keep cool, exercise in shady areas, such as in the woods, or open places where you’ll feel a breeze, like on the coast.
Try to train closer to sunrise or sunset, when the temperatures are cooler. I love running first thing in the morning, before most people are up, when the air is fresh and crisp, and the dew is still on the ground. It gives you a great feel-good factor for the rest of the day!
Drink, Drink & More Drink!
Sweating is a very effective way to get rid of excess heat, but it causes the loss of water and electrolytes (salts) from the body. Dehydration, even as little as 1%, can affect your performance.
Prevention is the key to avoiding dehydration, and you should drink well before you exercise, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Don’t start exercising already dehydrated, with the idea that you’ll catch up during your workout, it just won’t happen.
It's important to pay attention to your hydration levels at all times, and not just when you're about to workout. Get into the habit of drinking water throughout the day, to increase your overall hydration levels. When you’re in the office, never pass a water cooler without taking a drink. At home, never go into the kitchen, without doing the same thing. Always carry a bottle of water around with you, and take regular mouthfuls.
During your exercise session, sip water frequently, and see drinking as an essential part of the workout, rather than an inconvenience. You’ll increase your performance, delay fatigue, and avoid risking injury and your health.
Immediately after your workout, start to re-hydrate your body to speed up recovery, keep your energy levels up, and prepare for your next session.
Less Is Best When It Comes To Clothing
The most important features of your summer wardrobe should be sunscreen and a hat.
On top of that, clothing should be light-weight, and light-coloured. Synthetic fabrics are much better than cotton, which can rub and cause chaffing once wet. It’s also worth investing in some technical clothing such as CoolMax, DryMax or Dri Fit, which wick-away sweat from your body. A performance t-shirt is probably the most important thing to invest in, although you can go the whole hog and buy everything technical, including your underwear!
Finally, don’t overdress in an attempt to lose weight. “Sweatsuits” will just make you lose a lot of water, and you’ll no doubt cook.
Lean, Fit & Fast!
People who have good cardiovascular fitness are usually able to handle the heat better than those who are less fit.
Also, body fat is an insulator, so if you loose a little excess weight, you might find that you can handle the heat better. If you’re tired or unwell, you’ll also notice the heat more.
Finally, faster runners will probably find that they get a greater cooling airflow, keeping them fresher than slower runners!
To sum up, training in hot weather shouldn’t be taken lightly. The more attention you pay to keeping cool, the better workout you’ll have.