Summer can arrive gradually allowing your body to adjust to the warmer temperatures, or it can arrive like a volcano eruption, steamy, hot and unpredictable. Exercising in the heat can jeopardize your health and hinder exercise performance.
Hot and humid days pose a particular risk. When it’s humid, the ability to dispel heat is minimized, which can ultimately lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The two most important things you can do to prepare yourself for summer outdoor training sessions is hydrate and acclimatize.
Plenty of research has been done on how to render the effects of dehydration. Before you begin your workout, fully hydrate. Fully hydrating can delay dehydration during exercise, maintain exercise performance, and decrease the risk for heat related ailments.
Fluid intake prior to exercising improves the ability to control body temperature, and increases blood plasma volume to maintain proper cardiac productivity. You want to drink enough fluids before exercising in the heat to begin every workout fully hydrated. Also, you should continue to drink during workouts that are longer than an hour. A good indication that you are maintaining your hydration level is urine color. The lighter the urine color, the better the level of hydration. So your urine should be clear to pale white instead of the color of apple juice or yellow.
“Heat acclimation is a broad term that can be loosely defined as a complex series of changes or adaptations that occur in response to heat stress in a controlled environment over the course of 7 to 14 days. These adaptations are beneficial to exercise in the heat and allow the body to better cope with heat stress.” In plain English you will sweat better, improve cardiovascular function and increase exercise performance.
Heat Acclimatization Tips (courtesy University of Connecticut-Korey Stringer Institute)
There are steps you can take to help your body acclimatize to a new environment:
- Do not participate in more than one practice per day in the first five days of practice
- Don’t practice more than three hours in one day
- Do not wear full gear until day six of practice
- For full-contact sports, live full-contact drills should not be used until day six of practice
- For double-practice days, they must be followed by a single-practice day or day of rest
- On double-practice days, practices should not exceed 3 hours including stretching, warm-up, cool-down and lifting
- Be properly hydrated before, during and after practice
- Gradually increase the intensity of practice over the course of a few days
- Increase the amount of sodium in your diet for the first days of practice to make up for sweat salt loss
- Avoid practicing while sick
- Have cooling methods available during practice (ice towels, ice tubs)
- Take breaks frequently to avoid your body overheating
- Get plenty of sleep the nights before practices
Other Strategies for Exercising in the Heat
Other strategies for exercising in the heat if you’re training outdoors during the summer months, is to choose the morning, when the temperature is cooler. Research has shown that endurance exercise ability in the heat is significantly greater in the morning than in the evening. If you must train during the hotter part of the day, do the workout in the shade and wear loose fitting, moisture wicking, light colored workout clothing.
Whether you’re training for a marathon or just want to workout to stay fit, following these necessary precautions, will enhance your workouts and greatly reduce the risk of heat related ailments.
During the summer, you have access to all sorts of colorful fruits and vegetables you might otherwise not get during other times of the year. Here are some of my favorites that will boost your energy, fill your belly and put a sparkle in your thinking. Antioxidant Fruit Favorites: Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries. Favorite Veggies: Kale, Spinach, Brussel Sprouts. And let’s not forget Dark Chocolate is an antioxidant! Yes, you can add this to your happy foods. These are just a few of the many antioxidant foods to put on your plate this summer. Along with these delicious healthy choices, remaining hydrated, and getting plenty of rest, you’ll find exercising in the sizzling hot summer months to be just as invigorating as any other time of the year.