Summer is upon us and that means getting used to training in the heat. Will you die? Probably not, but there are a few things to consider while training during the summer to make sure you don’t pass out before you finish your workout…those things are humidity, altitude, and hydration. You can get used to training in extreme environments, and you may even become a better athlete because of it.

HUMIDITY

What is humidity? The amount of water vapor in the air, and when those levels are high, we all struggle to keep cool.

  1. Science says it takes you about two weeks of consistent training in humidity to adapt to a warmer, more humid environment.
    • The first couple of weeks feel like you’re training in saran wrap, so make sure you take extra breaks to allow your body to adjust.
  2. Training in humidity raises your core body temperature, which will make your body work harder to cool down.
    • High core temps will make your body shift from aerobic to anerobic which means your body will burn up muscle energy stores quicker.
    • High body temp can cause a decrease in blood flow to the heart as blood pools in your limbs. If your heart doesn’t get as much blood, it can’t pump as much oxygenated blood back to your muscles.
    • On the flip side it also makes your muscles warmer quicker, so your warmup times are decreased.
  3. Your body is able to adapt to heat more quickly than altitude, and training in heat can make you more effective in a variety of temperatures.
  4. Training in humidity will also make you more likely to dehydration, we’ll cover that in a minute.
  5. Tips to not die during a hot workout:
    • Train in the early morning or late evening
    • Drink before you’re thirsty
    • Shield yourself from the sun
    • Wear light colored lightweight clothes
    • Shade!
    • Cooling towels
    • Work on your conditioning

ALTITUDE

Altitude (aka elevation) is the term used to describe how many feet above sea level a location is.

  1. Like with training in high humidity, science says you need around two to four weeks to adjust to training at higher altitudes.
    • I noticed this when I moved back from PR… Most of Puerto Rico is just above sea level, so the air is nice and thick. When we came back to Nebraska, the air always felt thin and I always got my ass kicked during a workout… for like, the first month.
  2. Training at altitude is hard because the higher up you go, the less oxygenated the air is, making your respiratory and cardiovascular systems work on overdrive.
    • You’ll find yourself breathing harder quicker because your body is looking for it’s normal training oxygen supply.
    • Your heart and lungs will work harder to absorb any and all oxygen that’s in your bloodstream.
  3. High altitude training is a popular option for professional athletes in tons of sports. Why? Because if your body can run efficiently on not-ideal oxygen, when you have fully oxygenated air, your body will perform much better. 
    • This is why the US Olympic team has a training facility in the Rocky Mountains in CO. 
  4. When training at altitude for the first time, aim for around half of your usual training output, because your body will burn that oxygen real quick.
  5. Tips to not die when training at altitude:
    • Check with your doctor before altitude training, especially if you have diabetes or a lung or heart condition.
    • Get more sleep, you’ll need all the extra recovery you can get.
    • Be prepared to end our workout if you start to feel light headed.
    • Make sure you’re drinking enough water, the thin air will dry you out fast.

HYDRATION
Dehydration is a big issue when it comes to training in heat and at altitude… hydration is a struggle for a lot of people in general, actually, so let’s break it down.

  1. The million dollar question surrounding hydrating is “How much water should I drink daily?” Men need around four liters of water a day, women need around three.
  2. How do you know if you’re dehydrated?
    • Gently pinch the skin on your arm or stomach with two fingers so it makes a tent shape, then let go.
    • Check to see if the skin goes back to normal position in one to three seconds.
    • If the skin is slow to go back to normal, you may be dehydrated.
  3. What are the signs of dehydration?
    • Thirst, dry or sticky mouth
    • Not peeing enough, and peeing dark yellow
    • Dry, cool skin
    • Headache
    • Muscle cramps
  4. If you have severe dehydration you can also experience dizziness, rapid heartbeat and/or breathing, sunken eyes, lack of energy, confusion, irritability, or fainting. Severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention.

Training in heat and altitude isn’t the worst thing you can do to your body, even though it feels really shitty at first… training in both will actually make you a better athlete if you’re smart about the process and don’t wreck yourself. Just remember, hydration is key in high humidity and high altitude. Make sure you’re giving your body all of the water it needs. Now, get out there and enjoy this beautiful weather… we’ve all been stuck inside long enough!

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