Summer in the high desert can be a challenging environment for any workout. When you walk out the front door and smack into that wall of heat, it can take an iron will to keep on walking. The good news? Training under that additional stress can improve your performance and up your endurance for tough cardio workouts well into the fall.
The Science Scoop: University of Oregon researchers ran a study tracking a dozen high-level cyclists training in triple-digit heat over a 10-day period. The researchers found a 7% performance improvement! The control group, training in a comfortable, 55-degree room, saw no such change. (via Men’s Journal)
Heat-training may turn out to be superior even to high-altitude training, but it comes with its own potentially dangerous complications. With a little forethought and some reasonable self-care, you can stay on a hard-core fitness path even when the daily high hits triple digits.
- Listen to your body: The “no pain – no gain” mentality is a dangerous attitude, especially when it comes to high-temperature exercise. The goal of training is to improve your heat acclimation and conditioning over time, so you’ll be ready for the next significant competition. Pushing too hard, too fast, only increases your risk of injury (or worse). Stop immediately if you feel dizzy, faint, or nauseated.
- Start early: As a rule, the early morning is going to be the coolest part of the day. 10am-3pm is when you’ll see those peak temperatures. Consider slowly pushing your workout later into the day, to acclimate your body to those punishing temperatures. Over time, your body will learn to dissipate heat more efficiently.
- Hydration is a science: One of the effects of heat-acclimation training is an increased rate of perspiration, which helps control your hormonal and thermoregulatory systems. Dehydration is obviously a real concern, but it’s not the only concern. When you sweat, you’re losing more than just fluids, you’re losing electrolytes and salt as well. If you drink too much water without replenishing those critical elements, you could risk hyponatremia, which may lead to confusion, cramps, or even seizures.
- Watch the weather: Be aware of those days when the temperature could hit dangerous highs. Look out for heat advisories in your area, which indicate high ozone and air pollution that could damage your lungs. When it’s just too hot or hazy, take your workout indoors.
The physiological effects of heat-acclimation training are interesting, but not yet entirely understood. Some research indicates that heat-training can increase blood plasma volume, reduce overall core temperature, reduce blood lactate, increase skeletal muscle force, and even help athletes perform better in cold temperatures (via OutdoorsOnline). Living in the high desert, where temperatures in summer average 97 degrees, gives us the opportunity to put those findings to the test. But not everyone will respond to heat the same way, and it’s important to respect the additional stress high temperatures put on the body. Without monitoring, it is possible to elevate your core temperature to unsafe (or even lethal) levels!
LifeFit Fitness is part of Heritage LifeFit. Heritage advocates preventative care and believes in exercising safely and regularly is a crucial component of lifetime wellness. Heritage LifeFit’s locally based member-services teams are dedicated to the spirit of excellence carried throughout the Heritage Provider Network. With programs for every age, at every fitness level, LifeFit wants to help discover a healthier, happier you!
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