Hot Stuff! How to still enjoy training when it is a sauna outside.
By: Katie McMahon (2011/07/29)
This past Sunday afternoon, as I was relaxing and recovering from what I thought was a fairly gruelling loop time trial, I turned on the television to watch some mindless comedy. However what I ended up stumbling across was none other than the Ironman championships in Hawaii. Talk about gruelling! Not only is this race, well you know...an Ironman, it is done in temperatures reaching up to 50°C!!! One of the athletes compared the run to cooking oneself in an oven. So how do these athletes manage to cross that finish line in record times when the ice cubes they are sticking down their shirts are melting within 10 seconds? The techniques and coping methods they use are not only great for racing, they are also a good idea for training, even here in the Gatineau hills where temperatures of 30°C have a lot of us staying indoors to exercise. With a little help from my exercise physiology class, personal experience and watching these amazing triathletes; here are some useful tips for training in the heat that I have learned:
Dress appropriately: Wear light clothing, nothing that is going to stop your sweat from evaporating. Sweating is the body’s way of cooling us off and if that sweat is trapped underneath a non-breathable piece of equipment is can get trapped underneath the skin resulting in heat rash, which trust me, as I learned from kayaking in a wetsuit top, is NOT fun!
Andre with his sweet Rudy Project sunglasses, protecting those eyes
Sun Protection: Now that you’re wearing some awesome light clothing, make sure that all exposed skin is covered with sunscreen. On days when the temperature is high, the UV index (how strong the sun is) is also usually very high. Wearing hat and sunglasses are also an excellent idea to help protect yourself from the sun. If the tan look is what you’re going for, don’t worry; enough exercise outdoors and it will happen naturally. Just remember, sun burn or skin cancer is a lot worse than not being as tan as you would like.
Proper Hydration: This is perhaps the most important step of all. As mentioned above, sweating is our body’s way of trying to regulate its temperature. Through sweating we lose a lot of water and electrolytes. Not only that, but we require more water because of the transformations our body undergoes during exercise. When we exercise, muscles such as the quadriceps require more nutrients for energy, so our body adapts. Our heart rate increases and vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels) occurs. These two put together mean that our blood volume increases but it also results in competition between our exercising muscles and our sweat glands. The active muscles need the oxygen and nutrients that blood supplies and the skin requires blood to help facilitate heat loss. To make sure neither one of these functions suffers; drink as much water as possible! Otherwise dehydration could occur. Dehydration can become very serious very quickly and can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion and even heatstroke, if you’re not careful. Not only does our body require water, but have you ever noticed how salty your skin gets as you sweat? It is a great idea to replace these lost electrolytes using a sports drink like E-load or salt tablets. In order to contract, our muscles use something called a sodium potassium pump. The less Na+ and K+ are delivered to our muscles, the harder it is for them to work properly again, resulting in muscle cramps.
Heading out on a run in the heat, prepared with some light clothing, and water.
Pumping off some roller board at the end of a great workout in the heat
Looks like Andre may be suffering from some heat exhaustion...maybe he should go hydrate.
Recovery: How you treat your body after exercise in the heat is just as important as what you do during your workout. During your epic adventures in the heat, your body’s temperature most likely has increased a tad and your blood vessels are most likely still dilated. What I like to call “achy legs” is simply blood pooling in the legs after a workout because the body is too exhausted to work against gravity and pump that blood back up to the heart. This can be easily avoided by a good old ice bath *(see Kyla’s article) which will help to constrict your veins again to help them send blood back to your heart and at the same time will help lower your body’s temperature back down to normal. Afterwards, putting your legs up and compression socks will perform similar functions. Or you could try my grandmother’s theory of sleeping with a bar of soap under your sheets...???
Most importantly post-exercise is to KEEP DRINKING and eating!!! No matter how much you drank during your training session in the heat, you will still be in a deficit of nutrients. Also try and find a cool place, out of the sun, to hang out in and maybe take a well earned siesta.
Recovering with some compression socks and some good ol' E-Load
No matter whether you are training for skiing, running or are racing ironmans in an oven, to a certain point the heat should not be a limiting factor. As long as you dress correctly, protect yourself from the sun and stay hydrated, training in the heat is not only doable but it can also be a lot of fun. Treating yourself to a jump in the lake and/or an ice cream is not a shabby idea either.
*Thanks to Andre for being an awsome model, to E-Load for keeping us fresh and Rudy Project for keeping us classy while protecting our eyes from that hot sun!