Training in the Heat and Humidity

Itís that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when the asphalt really starts to cook. Itís getting hot! Some athletes acclimate more quickly and deal better with the heat than others. Whichever boat you find yourself in, here are a few quick tips for those of you living and training in a hot (and possibly humid) environment.

Increase your total fluid intake both during training sessions and throughout the rest of the day. A common occurrence among endurance athletes is to play catch-up with fluid intake post-workout, resulting in a state of chronic dehydration. One of the common symptoms of dehydration is fatigue. Imagine training for an Ironman. Now imagine it with the added challenge of dehydration-induced fatigue on a daily basis (not to mention the performance erosion dehydration causes). Drink more water.

Consider adding electrolyte supplements to your nutrition plan during training. There are plenty of choices out there, ranging from regular table salt or engineered electrolyte supplements that you could add to your current drink or take in pill form, to specific formulas designed to help you meet the needs of extreme environments. One of these is Ultrafit's Heat Mix. It contains a higher amount of sodium and lower carbohydrate concentration than other products available.

Endurance athletes on a low sodium diet or athletes with a high sweat rate may find that they will need to add salt to their foods while training in extreme conditions. Those of you with pre-existing hypertension should consult a sports-knowledgeable MD about your specific situation.

Sleep more. As your body adjusts to the demands of training and racing in a hot environment, it will more than likely demand more rest in between sessions. Rest and recovery are equally important parts of your training regimen.

Pace yourself appropriately. For most of us extreme conditions require that we adjust our pacing and use perceived exertion and heart rate during training and racing. It doesnít matter if you can run a 17:00 5k in 50 degree and dry weather. If itís 90 degrees and 85% humidity, you will more than likely need to slow down (or face heat related illness).

A number of studies have shown that pre-cooling before exercise in hot and humid conditions can improve performance during the session. It seems that most of these studies include a training session of 30 minutes, so the utility of a cold shower before a five hour bike ride may be limited. However, putting ice on your head and neck in between running intervals on a hot day can certainly help.

Thinking cool thoughts also helps! :)

Marty Gaal - May 2006