Summer is approaching, and for many of us it’s time to train more outdoors in the heat. Is training in the heat ok for our bodies though? Or are we risking heat illness? Can exercising in the heat negatively impact our athletic performance? Read on!

The key to training in the heat is to start slow, and allow the body time to gradually adapt to the heat. Build gradually over the first 10 mins so your thermoregulatory system has time adjust to the simultaneous stresses of the heat and exercise.

Core temperature may increase more than normal whilst training in the heat, so it’s very important to listen to your body for signs of heat stress – light headedness, nausea or a sudden increase in heart rate. If you experience these symptoms, stop and cool down immediately.

Athletes will experience greater water loss whilst exercising in heat, so drink plenty of water before, during and after your session. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty or have a dry mouth, as when you do you’ve already lost enough fluid that it will negatively impact your athletic performance. Ensure your urine is clear before you start your session.

Some other tips on exercising in hot conditions;

  • Train in the morning or late afternoon/evening to avoid the hottest part of the day
  • Wear light, technical fabrics that wick sweat and allow the skin to breathe
  • Wear sports specific sunscreen. The Premax Sunscreen for Sport is light, dry, SPF50+ and specifically formulated for exercise
  • If exercising outside, find a location or course that is mainly in the shade, and slow your pace to adjust to the heat and humidity
  • Plan ahead for the end of the session. Have extra water on hand, some small wet towels to place on the back of your neck or wrists, and know where you can get out of the heat and the sun into a cooler environment

 Sports Sunscreen

For people who successfully adapt and acclimatise to hot conditions, it can actually improve athletic performance. The body learns to sweat more – and in turn improve thermoregulation, both in hot and cold conditions! Training in the heat can also lead to positive changes in blood plasma volume, reduce overall core temperature, reduce blood lactate levels and improve aerobic performance.

It needs to be stressed however adapting to training in the heat should be done incrementally over many sessions, and that not everyone responds to training in the heat in the same manner, so it definitely needs to be approached with caution.

Recovering after a session in the heat takes on additional importance, and a change in strategy. Here’s 5 tips to recover well after a training session, race or game in the heat;

1. Get fluids in as soon as possible

Replenish the body with cold fluids (water is best), ensuring that your urine is clear (not yellow) 2-3 hours+ after the session. Elite athletes will often weigh themselves before a session in the heat, and make sure they keep replenishing fluids until their body weight returns to normal

2. Get extra sleep

Exercising in the heat will be more stressful on your body – and getting 7-9 hours sleep is even more important to allow the body to repair and revive. If possible, sleep in a cool room (17-20°C) however try to not run an air-conditioner as the dry air will cause further dehydration overnight

3. Choose a ‘cool’ active recovery

Keep any active recovery session light and easy, and out of the heat if possible. Swimming at the beach or lake is a great idea! It’s also a good idea to plan how you’ll cool down after this session as well. A cool shower or fan is a great strategy. A wet towel on the back on the neck and/or wrists can also help.

4. Wash the sweat off your skin

You’ll sweat more in the heat, and the sodium (salt) in the sweat can cause skin dehydration and ammonia & urea can cause irritation and inflammation. Wipe down, or shower as soon as you can. Replenish and soothe distressed and dehydrated skin with the Premax Sour Cherry Recovery Cream.

Premax Recovery Cream

5. Refuel with the right food and fluids 

Training in the heat can lead to a loss of appetite, so getting in some protein and carbohydrates soon after your run can be harder than usual. Cool smoothies, protein shakes and/or ice slurries will be easier to take in, and will also help your core temperature return to normal