Hot and humid days makes training much more challenging. It’s impossible for the body to perform as well as usual in sweltering temperatures and humidity levels, and can make even a short run feel like a marathon.
Research has heavily suggested that training in the heat is an extremely worthwhile workout, so you shouldn’t stop training just because it feels too hot. Training in the warm weather encourages your body to sweat more (which keeps you cool), increase your blood-plasma volume (which benefits cardiovascular fitness), and lower your core body temperature – all of which are incredibly beneficial and help you to perform better in any weather.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that exercising in the heat can put you at risk of dehydration, heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Common sense is key to avoiding these problems, but below we’ve answered some frequently asked questions and explained our top tips for training in the hot conditions.
WHEN TO TRAIN IN THE HEAT
Try to train during the coolest parts of the day, which is usually just before sunrise. The middle of the day, particularly between 10am and 4pm is when the sun’s intensity is at its greatest and is therefore the hottest temperature. If training is the morning is not your thing, train in late afternoon/early evening.
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Remember that your body cannot perform to its usual levels in the blistering heat, so rather than attempting a personal best, focus on another area. For example, if you usually run 3 miles in 30 minutes, focus on just running 30 minutes instead at a comfortable pace.
The most effective way of preventing heat disorders is to keep your body hydrated. Sweat is composed of plasma from your blood, and sweating can decrease your blood volume, which is why adequate hydration is critical in hot weather. You lose electrolytes in your sweat, so consuming water and a sports drink or taking an electrolyte supplement is essential. You should be drinking water before, during and after exercise.
TRAINING CLOTHES FOR HOT WEATHER
Wear loose fitting, light-coloured synthetic fabrics (not cotton) that absorbs sweat and dries quickly – it’ll help your body to breathe and cool itself naturally through evaporation. Wearing darker clothes will absorb the sun’s light and heat, and tighter clothes will restrict the cooling process as well as become uncomfortable.
WHERE TO TRAIN OUTSIDE IN THE HEAT
During the warmer temperatures, you should make sure your training is in a shady area. Swap heat-radiating roads for grass, and make sure you have plenty of water available..
It’s vital that you apply sunscreen whenever you are spending time in the sun, and running is no exception. Protect your skin with waterproof sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection, protecting you from both UVA and UVB rays. If you’re running for longer periods of time, be prepared to re-apply when necessary.
Not only is sunburn detrimental to your skin, but it will also restrict your body’s rate of cooling as injured skin loses its ability to sweat.
If you’re really struggling to train in the hot weather, don’t be afraid to change plans and try something else out. For instance, train indoors if you usually train outdoors. As long as you keep up some form of exercise, you’ll maintain a level of fitness and be able to ease back into your normal regime when the days start to become more bearable.
BE CAREFUL & CONSULT A SPECIALIST
Don’t overdo it and avoid pushing yourself too much. If any signs of heat problems occur, such as starting to feel faint, dizzy or disorientated, stop running, sit in the shade and get some water on board.
If at any time you’re particularly concerned, make sure you consult a specialist health professional.