ATLETA Fitness

Beat the Heat – Training in the Heat Safely

Summer is the perfect time for all things fitness! With lighter mornings, longer evenings and plenty of fitness options, summer is definitely the time to be and stay active. The only setback, though, is the heat…or is it? Training in the heat has many physical benefits, so warm up and get set to embrace the challenge!

Getting used to the heat – Acclimatisation

What are the Physical Benefits?

How can you apply this to your training

What to be wary of

Runners in the Badwater Ultra-marathon - a 217km running race, where the temperature averages above 45 degrees C

Runners in the Badwater Ultra-marathon – a 217km running race, where the average temperature sits well above 45oC

Getting used to the heat – Acclimatisation

You can’t expect to get straight into training in the heat and expect to be feeling great afterwards – acclimatising to the heat takes time. Initially, start small and build up. Ensure you’re adequately hydrated before getting started with your session. Electrolyte drink will help you hydrate before your train, and minimise the risk of severe dehydration. Dehydration of 2-3% bodyweight can impact performance significantly, so make sure you keep close tabs on your hydration status and fluid intake. If you feel thirsty then you’re already dehydrated.Set out for your session at a comfortable intensity, around a 4-6/10 (1 being resting exertion and 10 being your hardest ever workout). Make sure you have some shade or cooling strategies close by, in case the heat becomes overwhelming quicker than expected.

Starting out at a lower intensity will allow you to get used to exercising at hot temperatures. The heat increases your perception of effort, so what starts out as a 4-6/10 may well end up being an 8-9/10 by the end of your session. After a few sessions at high heat, you can start to build the intensity up, as you begin to acclimatise. A great way to acclimatise to the heat is to try hot, or Bikram, yoga. A tough workout and good stability and mobility session, Hot/Bikram yoga provides an excellent way to get used to exercising in a hot environment, and to try something new for your workout.

As you acclimatise, your body will adapt to the high heat conditions – meaning you can go harder and stronger each workout!

What are the Physical Benefits?

Exercising in the heat requires greater physical work out-put for the same ‘level of exertion’. What this means is that if you complete a 5km run in 25 with an average heart rate of 160 at normal temperature (VO2Max and Lactate Response to exercise.

When you exercise in the heat, you will sweat more – that is a given. Where training in the heat helps is in developing your ability to sweat during exercise. Acclimatising to training in the heat means your body will commence sweating at a lower core temperature, reflecting an intuitive mechanism to keep core body temperature (and hence performance) closer to optimal level in high heat conditions. Further, your sweat rate throughout exercise will also increase, demonstrating an improved thermoregulatory capacity.

Chick Running HeatMost interestingly, however, are the changes and adaptations to your blood and blood plasma volume. Regularly training in the heat will increase both your blood plasma and total blood volumes, representing in an increased resistance to dehydration and an increased performance capacity. More blood means there is more fluid, and a higher resistance to dehydration ,as well as allowing an improved oxygen circulation capacity. This directly relates back to the improved heart rate, VO2 and Lactate responses to training in the heat.

These physiological improvements all reflect an improved performance capability; but how does this actually benefit you?

How can you apply this to your training

Simply put, regular exercise in the heat will improve your both your fitness and your physiological response to exercise. increased oxygen carrying capacity, lowered resting heart rate, improved heart rate response and better lactate response to training in the heat will all improve training ability both in the heat and under normal training conditions. This will directly result in improved overall fitness, reflected by improved running time, and other cardiovascular exercise improvements.

Improved sweating ability and efficiency will help to regulate your temperature better, making sure you can exercise in high heat conditions with a decreased risk of overheating. It also means that when training in normal temperatures, your body is better suited to monitoring body temperature and is able to keep your core temperature more stable. Ultimately, this will help in achieving new personal best performances, and being able to train harder without a major performance loss occurring.

Increased blood volume means you can work harder for the same heart rate response as prior to training, reflecting improved fitness and physiological capacity. Increased blood volume also increases your resistance to dehydration ,and improves your fitness under normal training conditions.

Despite the benefits training in the heat offers, it is still important to be wary of the dangers of high heat exercise.

What to be wary of

Training in the heat provides many physical and physiological benefits; however, it also poses a health risk if undertaken without appropriate controls in place. Training in the heat increases your risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Appropriate work-load and pre-work hydration will help to minimise this risk, however, the chance still exists. Constantly monitoring your body and how you feel will give you a good indication of whether your body is coping with the work or not. Tracking heart-rate will also provide a good indicator of how your body is performing. Rapid increases in heart rate without an accompanied increase in workload could mean sever dehydration and heat exhaustion are well on their way to striking you – meaning you need to stop and rehydrate ASAP! Find some shade and electrolyte-heavy fluids and replenish your body, slowly drinking (1 sip every 2-3 minutes) and slowly cooling down your body (not straight into an ice bath).

Heat Exhaustion AthleteIf you want to avoid hot conditions, there a re a host of strategies to help manage the heat and avoid discomfort. Indoor gyms provide an air-conditioned environment, which will keep core body temperature down and avoid over-heating. Early mornings are another great alternative, as the temperature is cooler and UV index is lower. Alternatively, daytime training in the heat but in the shade will reduce overall feelings of heat. Good hydration pre and during your workout will act as protective factor against the heat, and training in a cooler environment, such as a pool, will similarly manage core body temperature better.

Want more information, or want to get started with the ATLETA Team? Click below to find out how you can get started on your fitness journey with ATLETA!

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Written by Johann Ruys



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