Training is hard enough, but training in a hot climate is even harder. And for most of us, summer’s heat is unavoidable. Fortunately, there are a couple of simple ways you can make outdoor training a little more bearable and safe when your workouts have to be completed in the heat.
1. Train During the Coolest Times of the Day Whilst it may mean an OMG wake-up alarm, training early in the morning (or late in the evening) in the summer months is absolutely worth it. Doing so will limit the strain on your body by avoiding the sun at its hottest. Training your body for early starts is also hugely beneficial come race day when you have no choice in the matter.
2. Dress for the Heat Make sure you choose high-quality clothing to train in. Loose-fitting, technical training gear will allow your body to better perform its primary cooling defense: sweating. Tight-fitting clothing, or clothing made from non-breathable materials such as cotton, can actually hamper sweating and should thus be avoided. Remember that light, bright colors work to reflect the sun’s rays, whereas dark colors absorb more heat. Be bright!
3. Plan to Drink and DRINK Hydration becomes even more important when training in the heat. It not only helps cool down your body’s core temperature but also provides the “fuel” for sweating (see the above section on the importance of sweating!). Make sure you plan for and bring plenty of fluids — including both water and electrolyte-rich drinks — even for short sessions outdoors in the heat. If you’re running and don’t want to carry a bottle of water with you, then map out your route beforehand and drop off your drinks along the way. Essentially, you’re setting up your own little aid stations!
4. Listen to Your Body Train yourself to listen to your body so that you learn to avoid going too hard in the heat. Early warning signs of heat exhaustion are lightheadedness, no longer sweating, and/or nausea. Know the signs and respect them, which means stopping a session if you are experiencing any of those signs. Don’t try to “push” on through — you may end up losing a lot more than the one session if you do. An easy way to be proactive about this is to keep an eye on your urine before and after a training session. If it’s brightly colored, you’re likely on top of your hydration. But if it’s darker, you need fluids asap.
In the summer months, training in the heat is unavoidable — but it does not have to be dangerous or hold you back from achieving your goals. You just need to take a few small precautions to train a little smarter.