Warm-weather Workouts by Marc Wilkinson
Training in warm weather is definitely not the same as training in cooler temperatures. There are many ‘tricks of the trade’ - practices which can make your summer training much more comfortable and much better for your overall fitness.
To determine whether you know exactly what to do when the temperature rises, please give our true-false test a try. If you score 11 or 12 correct answers, you''re a warm-weather pro, and you should be able to carry out some great training this summer. If you notch between eight and 10 right answers, you need to heat up your understanding of summer-time training in a hurry. Anything less than eight is pretty scary: you''d better stick to ''dreadmill'' workouts in air-conditioned rooms until you become more heat savvy.
The Heat Exam: True or False
1. When it''s really hot outside, you should train at a slower-than-usual velocity so that your heart rate is not higher than it would be under cool conditions.
2. During very hot weather, you should train in the cooler, early-morning hours so that you can maintain your quality of training and reduce your risk of heat injury.
3. It''s OK to shorten your usual warm-up if you''re going to be competing or carrying out a high-quality workout in the heat.
4. Don''t use an air conditioner to get a good night''s sleep, because sleeping in a cool room can cause you to lose some of your adaptations to the heat.
5. If you''re going to be training in warm air for more than 30 minutes or so, don''t sponge off the moisture building up on your skin as you exercise, because as that water evaporates it will help you stay cool.
6. Sunscreens are verboten for hot-weather workouts, because they clog sweat-gland openings and thereby decrease the rate of sweating.
7. Contrary to popular opinion, you tend to burn more calories during warm-weather exercise, compared to winter workouts, and therefore you need to eat more food than usual to sustain your training.
8. It generally takes about two weeks to become fully adapted to the heat.
9. To ensure complete adaptation to the heat, it''s best to exercise for at least an hour a day during the acclimatization period.
10. If you are going to be exercising for over an hour in the heat, make sure you drink plenty of water with your sports drink so that you will be well-hydrated and well-fuelled.
11. Training in fairly heavy clothing can improve your heat tolerance.
12. Running or riding through sprinklers and pouring cups of water on your head as you exercise probably won''t do much to help you stay cool.
1. False. If you followed this popular recommendation closely, you''d be training more slowly than usual for most of the summer. True, your heart would be getting its usual work, but your legs would be taking instruction in the fine art of moving more lethargically.
Instead of clinging to a fixed heart rate and sending velocity down the tubes, you should train at your desired speed, let heartrate increase beyond cool-weather levels, and - if heat injury is a concern - reduce the total amount of training you complete at the specified velocity.
If you''re a cyclist, doing 4 x 5min intervals @ 85% of MHR, doing just three - or even two - intervals @ 85% MHR will be much better for you than poking through four intervals at 70-75% MHR pace - or just cycling continuously at an easy pace.
2. False - at least for the most part. If you always train in relatively cool air, you''ll never fully adapt to hot conditions, and if your important competition is held in the heat, you may wilt while your competitors are fired up. You only adapt to the conditions in which you train, so if you''re an early-morning trainer, don''t expect to be great under the sun. However, if you''re a fitness exerciser who will never have to compete in the heat, it''s fine to complete all of your workouts during the coolest part of the day; it will usually be possible to carry out a greater quantity of high-quality work then. (Indeed, even serious competitors whose competitions will take place in the heat should conduct some of their workouts under cool conditions to permit a higher intensity of training; as long as they carry out some of their quality - plus prolonged - work in the heat, they will adapt fully, although the adaptation process will take a little longer this way.)
Another bonus associated with early-morning workouts is that air pollution is usually lower in the morning, compared to mid-day or evening.
3. True. The scientific evidence suggests that this is so, although of course you will still want to do enough warming-up to reach desired levels of flexibility. The reality is that hot weather itself does some of your warming up for you, raising heart rate, warming muscles and overall body temperature, and increasing muscle laxity. If you warm up as you would on a cool day, you might start your race with an appreciably heightened body temperature, potentially increasing your risk of heat cramps, heat exhaustion or even ''heat stroke''.
Interestingly enough, research suggests that on very hot days, endurance athletes sometimes perform better if they cool themselves off (with ice baths) before competing. If no ice baths are available at your next steamy race, at least limit your warm-up (don''t do so much that you begin to sweat heavily) and stay in the shade until the competition begins.
4. False! The only thing a cool room will make you lose is those bags under your eyes, the ones that come from tossing and turning all night in a sweat-soaked bed. Getting a good night''s sleep in cool air will enhance your recovery from tough workouts - and won''t steal any of your adaptations to the heat.
5. False. A good rub with a sponge can remove oil and accumulated electrolytes from the skin, which should actually aid the sweating process and increase overall cooling (the openings of sweat glands on the skin surface will be less likely to be covered with muck). Removing the moist slime from your skin is no great loss, as far as cooling goes, because if it were going to evaporate it probably would have already done so. Most of that ooze will simply drip off your body, a process which doesn''t increase cooling.
To use a sponge or cloth correctly, wipe it vigorously along your brow, around your neck, down your shoulders and arms, over your chest, down your legs, and then across your armpits (in that order).
6. False. It''s true that the oil-based sunscreens do interfere with sweating, but they aren''t the only ones on the market. Use a water-based product; it will let your sweat glands do their work as it decreases your risk of squamous-cell carcinoma.
7. Surprisingly, this is true. Hot weather hurts your economy - i.e. it makes you use more fuel to run or cycle at a particular pace, compared to exercising under cooler conditions. Therefore, at least during the time period when you are adapting to the heat, you actually may need to take in more carbohydrate than usual to keep your muscles well-stocked with glycogen.
8. False. The research indicates that you can become fully adapted after seven days of hot-weather training. However, bear in mind that you are acclimatized only to the conditions under which you have trained, not to all conditions. If you train consistently in 80-degree, 40-per cent-humidity conditions, you are not completely adapted for 90-degree, 40-per cent days or an 80-degree, 80-per cent-humidity situation.
9. False. Actually, the research suggests you can adapt nearly completely by exercising just 30 minutes per day for about one week, as long as your exercising is fairly intense, i.e. at about 85% of max heart rate or above.
10. False. Of course, taking in plenty of fluid is a good idea, but mixing water with sports drink will reduce the rate of carbohydrate absorption across the wall of your gut and increase the chances that your muscles will run low on fuel after an hour or more of steady exercise. For that reason, it''s best to stick exclusively with sports drinks and forget about plain water. The good news is that the water in the sports drink will be absorbed nearly as fast (or as fast) as the water in plain water.
11. Strangely enough, this is true, although it''s a somewhat risky practice. Once you slip into an extra jogging suit, sweat rates and advances in body-temperature can accelerate considerably, increasing your chances of dehydration and/or serious overheating. No one should exercise for more than 10 minutes while ''overdressed'', and - contrary to popular belief - layering on extra clothing is not an effective weight-loss strategy.
12. True. Those fine sprays and head drenches might help you feel a little better, but research indicates that they don''t have much effect on body temperature, probably because most of the added water doesn''t actually evaporate but instead just runs off the body in rivulets. Remember that it''s the evaporation of water from your skin, not the mere presence of water, which cools you down.
Marc Wilkinson is a sports marketing consultant with many years of experience of top-level racing and coaching. Phone him on (021) 791 0055 or e-mail email@example.com
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