Long, hot summer days just beg to be spent outdoors, which means that it’s also a great time to take advantage of your training! But when the temperatures reach scorching levels, a few extra precautions are definitely necessary to keep you safe and moving forward with your training progress, not derailing it. Here’s what you need to know before training outside in hot weather this season.
First thing’s first: safety precautions
Training in the summertime has its own unique set of challenges, not least of which is the physical toll that the weather and sun can have on your body.
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very real issues when you’re exerting yourself out in the heat and raising your core body temperature too high, so it’s important to take all the necessary precautions prior to heading out to your workout.
Note: if you do experience any signs of heat exhaustion like dizziness, a racing heartbeat, or faintness, stop your workout immediately and go to a cooler place in the shade or indoors to rehydrate. If you experience any serious symptoms that could indicate a heat stroke like confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, or a seizure, call 911 immediately.
Staying hydrated is absolutely critical when you’re exerting yourself during your hot weather training. Not only does drinking water throughout your workout helps you keep your body temperature down, but it also allows you to replace the many fluids you lose through sweat when you’re working out in the heat. If you allow yourself to become dehydrated, you run the risk of becoming overheated and subject yourself to the possibility of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke.
Keep a water bottle on hand anytime you’re going to be working out, but especially if the temperatures are rising. Make sure your bottle can carry enough water for your needs (the American Council On Exercise recommends 17-20 ounces two hours prior to your workout and 7-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes of your workout), and plan ahead to find where you can refill it if necessary. If it’s especially hot and you’re pushing yourself especially hard, it’s also a good idea to keep an electrolyte-rich drink or supplement on hand to replenish those necessary minerals.
On a related note, you should also keep other supplements on hand like HOTSHOT For Cramps to reduce involuntary muscle cramping which is common among endurance athletes. While heat-induced muscle cramping is in a category of its own, HOTSHOT For Cramps can help prevent the neurological causes of exercise-related cramping that can throw a wrench in your training routine.
In addition to the heat, the sun’s harsh rays can also wreak a ton of havoc on your skin if you’re doing an outdoor summer workout. Before heading out, apply a sweatproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more like Coppertone Sport SPF 50 to keep your skin protected from burning even while you’re sweating, and reapply if you’re going to be out for more than an hour or so. It’s also a good idea to wear UV-protective hats and athletic gear if you’re in a particularly sunny location and/or are working out in the middle of the day.
The good news: hot weather training comes with major performance benefits.
But even though training in the hot weather comes with its own special set of drawbacks that require a certain amount of preparation, there’s also a distinct advantage: when you’re properly prepared and approach it the right way, hot weather training can be really good for your performance as an athlete!
A small 2010 study found that heat acclimation training among twelve trained cyclists led to improved aerobic performance after following up with training in a cooler location. Another study found that heat acclimation can also increase your blood plasma volume, which is good news for your cardiac output and VO2!
How to train effectively when it’s hot out
Don’t go all out, all at once.
Yes, hot weather training can be great for your progress, but it’s important to acknowledge that you shouldn’t push yourself to your physical limits on the very first hot day you have. Going too hard too quickly puts you at risk for heat exhaustion and dehydration. In general, heat acclimation should take about 7-14 days of gradually increasing heat exposure, so go at a moderate pace for the first couple of weeks until your body becomes more accustomed to the climate.
Time your workouts out right.
In general, you can expect the hottest parts of the day to fall somewhere between 12 pm to 4 pm (although depending on where you are in the world, this could span more or less time.) Determine which parts of the day are going to be the hottest where you are and avoid doing your workout at that time-- instead, try sticking to an early morning or evening training sesh instead to avoid too much overexertion.
Check your shoes and gear frequently when it’s hot out. When your thermometer reaches scorching temperatures, you can also expect the ground you’re running on to get even hotter. If you’re going to be doing any road running during your training, check in on your shoes frequently to evaluate for any damage from all the contact with hot, abrasive cement and pavement especially if they’re an older pair. As far as the right running shoes for hot weather, you’ll appreciate light-knit, breathable pairs like the Adidas Ultraboost Summer RDY Shoes, which will allow your feet to breathe and stay cool even when it’s extra hot outside.
Recognize your limits.
Finally, know when it’s just too hot to be outside safely (like if a weather advisory is given, for example). Have a backup plan in these cases so that you don’t have to put a halt to your training due to bad weather. For example, if you’re training for a run, sign up for a gym membership so that you have easy access to treadmills, or find an indoor track that would offer safer training conditions.
The bottom line
Training even while it’s hot out can do a world of good for your athletic performance, but you’ll need to keep some extra precautions in mind to prevent overheating and compromising your health in the process. Stay prepared with plenty of cool, drinkable water, the right gear, and a training schedule that slowly increases in intensity (rather than going all out, all at once) to get your body acclimated to the heat safely for the best summer training sessions of your life.
If you’re really looking to take your workout to the next level, HOTSHOT for Muscle Cramps and HOTSHOT for Muscle Soreness are both uniquely designed to prevent and treat muscle cramps and reduce next-day soreness even after your most intense workouts.
Featured image credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio