Summer is here, and with it come the associated high temperatures and humidity that will affect those of us that like to get our workouts done in the outdoors. Working out in the heat provides the body with a dual challenge.
The blood stream must work to cool the body during hot temperatures by transporting heat to the skin's surface. It also must continue its task of supplying oxygen and fuel to the body's working muscles.
When the body is working overtime moving body-cooling blood to the skin in trying to cool itself, less blood is pumped back to the heart.
With each beat of the heart pumping out less blood, the heart compensates by beating faster. With a quicker heart rate, the heart is overworked which leads to reduced aerobic power and thereby affecting performance in a negative manner.
When temperatures begin to increase, running times typically decrease. A rough estimate of this is that you will slow about one second per mile for every degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature above sixty degrees.
Dehydration is a key factor here, with sweat loss contributing to body weight loss and subsequent slowing of pace.
So what is an athlete to do? We race in the heat, so therefore to become acclimated with what will be encountered on race day; we should do most of our training under the same sort of conditions.
Performing the majority of your workouts on a stationary bike or on the comfort of a treadmill will definitely keep you physically fit, but will do little to prepare you for the high temperatures you will likely face come race day. Here are some tips for working out in the heat so that you can be as prepared as possible when race day approaches.
Hydreate often: before, during and after your workouts
You should hydrate before every workout to make sure you are well-hydrated going into the workout. Consuming eight to sixteen ounces prior to working out should be sufficient.
Plan to consume six to twelve ounces of water every fifteen minutes in workouts lasting an hour or less. You can carry a bottle of water with you.
Place them strategically on the course or run with a fuel belt. You can purchase a fuel belt, a running belt that holds small water bottles, at most top of the line running stores or order them online.
For those athletes that sweat a lot, a mix of water and sports drink may be essential to help provide electrolytes lost during the workout and help to prevent cramping.
In workouts lasting longer than an hour, an athlete definitely needs to have some sort of electrolyte replacement.
This could be in the form of electrolyte tablets or a sports drink. The more you sweat and the longer the workout, the more electrolytes you lose. Researchers have found that athletes, who consume sports drinks containing the most sodium, produce less urine and therefore lose fewer electrolytes. Afterward, make sure to replenish the fluids that were lost. The best way to know exactly how much fluids you have lost during a workout is to do a sweat test. First, weigh yourself prior to the workout naked. Complete your workout and then undress and weigh again.
The amount of weight loss equals the amount of fluid that will need to be replenished. After a workout it is also a good idea to consume a recovery drink that has a combination of electrolytes, protein, and carbohydrates to replenish electrolytes and to help increase glycogen stores in muscles and reduce muscle damage.
Dress for the heat
Choose lightweight, light-colored clothing and preferably those that "wick" moisture away from your body.
There are several brands that carry the dry-fit and wicking type clothing which allow for less moisture against your skin and increased ventilation. When clothing becomes saturated with moisture, friction often occurs which can cause chafing- an uncomfortable predicament for a runner.
Shorts should also be loose-fitting and quick-drying, with liners that wick moisture away from your body.
Wear a light colored hat or visor to keep the rays of the sun off your face. A visor also allows an area at the top to put a sponge or some ice during a race to allow for further cooling.
Lastly, look for a sock that contains wicking properties as well. Studies show that wet feet are more likely to blister, so choose a fabric such as polypropylene and Coolmax which are best since they contain moisture wicking properties.
Avoid the heat as much as possible by getting an early start, or choosing to run in the evening hours when the sun is down. Run on cooler surfaces and find some shade.
Pavement and concrete are hot surfaces to run on and actually reflect heat up. Try moving to the grass or find a dirt trail to run on.
Try to find a route that offers some shade, such as in a park or a tree-lined street. Running into the wind will also help to cool your body down, so every so often make a course direction into the wind.
On longer runs, slow the pace down and be ready to shorten the run if needed.
During interval workouts, allow for longer recovery times between sets and adjust your expectations.
Forget the watch on those extra hot days, and instead work with "perceived exertion". Running times are likely to be slower with hotter temperatures, so don't compare summer time workouts with those during the cooler months- you will only be disappointed!
Missy Janzow received her B.S. in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition business that serves to train the novice or sea soned triathlete or runner. You can reach her with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.