The weather here in Southwestern Ontario has been super-crazy lately. Below 0 one day (that’s 32 for you ‘Mericans) and up to 30 (86) the next. Crazy town.
Though the weather has clearly gone off-plan, you should not. I’ve already written about how to keep training outdoors in cold weather, so here’s how to keep your cool when it’s hot outside. Who knows, if you’re in Ontario, you might need both of these strategies.
First of all, don’t be stupid. If you can see the oily haze of summertime heat rising off the pavement, maybe right now isn’t the best time to go for your first 10k run.
Our bodies are great little creatures and they can do incredible things provided we give them the right conditions. Our bodies regulate heat by sweating, which helps us keep cool. However, when we sweat, we lose fluid. As long as you remain hydrated, your body should be able to cool itself.
When you become dehydrated in extreme heat, trouble can start. Your body will start to store heat, and your core temperature will rise. This can lead to such enjoyable side-effects as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, weakness, cramping, and vomiting. Once your temp climbs above 104, you may lose your ability to sweat, and lose consciousness, all of which can signal heat stroke – which is serious and can kill you, so don’t let things get to that point. Ever.
Have I scared you off steamy summertime workouts yet? No? Alright, then here are the things you need to do:
1) Work Into It
Our bodies like to adapt gradually to stimulus, and temperature is no different. Don’t go whole hog your first summer session – maybe do a type of training that you’re already familiar with, or take things at a slightly slower pace. Take rests when you need to. Maybe two-hour endurance practice in your non-air conditioned arena isn’t the ideal plan if you’re already sweating just from carrying your gear in.
Seriously people. Hydrate well and hydrate often. If you are cutting significant weight (more than a pound) from pre-to-post workout, you are probably not hydrating enough. If your pee is darker than lemonade, you are probably not hydrating enough. If you’re going four to six hours without peeing, you are probably not hydrating enough.
- 500 ml of fluid on the night before exercise
- 500 ml in the morning
- 500 to 1000 ml, 1 hour before exercise
- 250 to 500ml, 20 minutes before exercise
and then a gulp every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. For every pound of sweat lost during exercise, rehydrate with 2 cups of fluid. You are also losing sodium and potassium in your sweat, so it can be helpful to include a sports drink in your mid and post-exercise hydration strategy.
3) Wear Light, Breathable Clothing (Especially Shorts)
Make sure to wear light clothing that wicks sweat away from your skin. I never wear sleeves, so I’m okay on that front. However, I do not like to wear shorts. I am pretty much this colour (and nobody wants to see that on display):
However, when it’s hot out, I rock the shorty-shorts so that my major muscle groups can stay cool. To maintain my pearly-whiteness though, I load up on the sunscreen, and reapply as needed. A sunburn limits your body’s ability to cool itself (plus they are not fun to have, plus if I see you with one I will totally nag you about sun-care), so prevent burns before they start. If I’m out for a long time, I include a hat and sunglasses too.
When it’s derby time, wear as little as you safely can – nobody likes sweaty skin scraping on concrete. Always wear all of your gear (obviously). If you feel yourself getting too hot, take a break, move (far) away from the action – ideally behind the boards, take off your helmet and hydrate.
4) Exercise Early (before 7 am) or Late (after 6 pm)
If you can manage it, these are the best summer fitness times. It’s not yet the peak time for sun, and you’ll avoid the worst of the heat and humidity. If that’s not an option, consider training somewhere climate-controlled. If that’s not an option, at least find a spot with some shade.
5) Use Your Common Sense and Listen to Your Body
This shouldn’t even need saying, but sometimes fitness and derby people get so keyed up about training and practice that they push themselves too hard and wind up sick or injured. Hear me when I say that challenging your limits is awesome, but ignoring them is foolish. And super-sweaty-summer time is not the time to see how hardcore you can be.
Summer is awesome, and nature is beautiful, and training in the great outdoors is one of life’s simple pleasures. Just play it smart, know your body, and keep it cool.