Virginia is hot. Virginia is humid. I wait all year for summer only to remember how brutal workouts can be in this climate. So many of us struggle through our our workouts during summer months, but do you know what exactly makes heat such a stress on the body? Let me shed some light.
- As a cooling mechanism, your body sends more blood to circulate through the body. The blood moves away from your hot core to cool down your system. That flush you quickly experience during hot workouts is the appearance of blood being pumped to the surface of the body. This leaves less blood available to your muscles.
- The excess blood being pumped throughout your body increases your heart rate.
- Since the blood is being circulated to cool the body, the heart and lungs are forced to work harder in hot conditions to deliver oxygen to the muscles.
- Sweat evaporates at a slower rate in humid weather. The extra coat of moisture on your skin raises your body temperature even higher.
When your body is not adapted to hot conditions, the weather can cause enough stress to make your average run a brutal one. We have all experienced this. I remember the torture of summer lacrosse camp like it was yesterday. Ninety plus degree weather on turf fields would leave me feeling like a slug. Luckily, the human body can and will adapt well if you are physically fit. In less than two weeks of dealing with hot humid weather you will begin to exercise with a bit more ease:
- Your body’s cooling system will kick in faster, meaning you will begin to sweat earlier in your workout
- Your body will begin to make more blood, which will put less stress on your heart and lungs
- Your overall heart rate will slow down when exercising in heat due to the extra blood being produced
- The body will begin to work more efficiently, needing less energy to do the same amount of work
This doesn’t mean you can go run 6 miles at the height of the day on a sunny street. That would be plain stupid. Don’t be stupid. Work around the heat!
- Try two a days: do 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the late afternoon or evening–the down side is two showers.
- Get up with the sun: it’s the coolest part of the day in the summer
- Seek shade: make an extra effort to find a shaded trail or street while running.
- Replace what you lose in sweat: weigh yourself before your outdoor workout and again after. For every pound you lose, drink 16 ounces of water. Be sure to drink that amount before your next outdoor workout as a preventative measure.
- Wear sunscreen: sunburn is an added stress on your body that will affect your performance
- Dress for the heat: wear lightweight and light colored clothing. In reality, wear minimal clothing. You will never see me running with a shirt on in weather above 75 degrees.
- Don’t go overboard: especially when first adapting to heat. Take breaks when you are feeling over heated. There is nothing worse or more scary than heat exhaustion!
Now go get acclimated!