Training in the Summer Heat
Finally got that summer body? Perhaps you’re still working at it? Either way, you’ll want to continue exercising to maintain a strong momentum. However, be aware, summer has its own set of challenges and specific risks when trying to maintain your exercise schedule, primarily, dealing with the heat.
As most studies show, our bodies are made up of around 60% water. With maintenance of this delicate balance of fluid critical to general body functioning, the smallest decrease in body fluid (dehydration) can begin to have immediate negative consequences on how we perform both physically and mentally.
The average person losses 0.8-2.4 litres of fluid per hour during exercise. Even as little as a 2% loss of body weight fluid (equating to around 1.6 litres), if not replenished can have an immediate effect on the body’s performance ability. In fact, a 5% loss of fluid through sweating equates to about a 30% decrease in our performance potential, which is very significant.
If we continue to exercise and not re-hydrate, we run a real risk of suffering the serious effects of heat illness, heat exhaustion being a common effect or the more dangerous heat stroke, which can be fatal as the brain and internal organs risk permanent damage.
It’s not my intention to put the scare factor into exercising in the hot summer months, but let’s just get back to the basics, so we have a clear understanding of hydration principles in general:
The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) recommends letting your thirst guide your fluid intake. Simply put, if you are thirsty, drink! However, they themselves set a higher recommended intake of 2.7 litres per day for Females and 3.7 litres per day for Males for optimal hydration. (This being slightly more than the well known 8 glasses per day guideline that a lot of us are familiar with). The reference to letting your thirst guide you is, however a little like waiting until you shiver before you put warm clothes on; the fact is, you’re already cold! Well, we believe, simply waiting for the symptom to appear rather than focusing on prevention just doesn’t quite cut it.
Thirst is the bodies early warning sign for dehydration. It is commonly agreed by many health experts that if you’re actually feeling thirsty, what that really means is, you are already slightly dehydrated. Compare the scenario to your car, which has an oil warning light for low oil levels. We don’t ever want to really get that low for the light to appear and risk significant engine damage. It is better therefore to keep our car topped up. In the same sense, it is essential for our body to be well hydrated most of the time in order to prevent heat related damage.
Being wellness conscious, we all want to keep on top of our exercise schedules and more importantly, doing so safely during the warmer summer months. Let’s look at a few tips for Training in the heat. But firstly, I’d like to look at simple hydration principles.
Now is the perfect opportunity to discuss the importance of electrolytes in your fluid intake regime (especially during extended exercise). Electrolytes are a critical part of the body’s cellular functions, and any shift in the balance of these minerals can create problems, including cramping, fatigue, dizziness, decreased physical and psychological performance, just to touch on a few. Electrolyte replacement is an important consideration and drinks containing electrolytes form an important role. A warning though, many popular electrolyte drinks contain a significant amount of sugar or artificial sweetener, so be selective in your choice, always read the ingredient labels carefully and look for natural, self-made or organic options wherever possible.
It is, however, important to remember that clean filtered water should always be your number one go to for good hydration. Something to remember, though. Back in the day we still had easy access to clean, fresh water that would come down from the mountains or natural springs, collecting minerals from rocks along the way, also becoming activated through movement and of course generally being free of pollutants. Pure water like this is the ultimate source for deep cell hydration. Nowadays, however our water is filtered, purified, distilled and highly treated, which diminishes and, in some cases, eliminates vital mineral content, leaving the water essentially ‘dead’. You may even taste the difference in many of the bottled waters these days, sometimes not even seeming to quench your thirst!
Again, it is a matter of reading labels and conducting a little of your own research to uncover the best hydration options for you. But take your time to do so, as your body will perform better both physically and psychologically and you will also recover quicker from activity.
In hot conditions it is extremely hard to keep up with the amount of fluid loss your body experiences during an exercise session, but following the guideline below will ensure that you give it the best possible chance to maintain performance levels during and more importantly after activity.
- Drink a big glass of water immediately after you wake in the morning
- Focus on solid hydration in the hours leading up to an event or exercise session.
- Regular small drinks during your session (this is a good time to include electrolyte replacement drinks)
- Focused Hydration immediately after session (again electrolyte options are extremely beneficial during this period)
A great way to monitor fluid loss and fluid replacement is to weigh yourself before the session, then immediately after (the deficit is primarily fluid loss). This is a popular method used by professional athletes to ensure they re-hydrate to correct levels immediately after an event.
To round it all off, here are a few helpful general tips for successfully work-outs in the hot summer months:
- Wear Appropriate Clothing – light, loose fabric to maximise sweat dissipation
- Schedule Exercise Sessions to match weather conditions at the time – early morning or late afternoon and avoid the middle and hottest parts of the day
- Exercise in cooler places – air conditioned, shaded areas, or water sessions
- Shorten sessions if needed
- Decrease pace or intensity of sessions
- Keep well hydrated before, during and after
- Know and understand the signs of heat related illness, continually monitor for these during your sessions
Consistency is the key component of any successful fitness & wellness program. Don’t let the fear of working out in the heat stop your momentum.
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Be aware! Train smart! And reap the benefits of maintaining your exercise flow throughout summer. Most importantly…HAVE FUN and ENJOY SUMMER!
Gaia Fitness & Wellness Coach