How to Build Your Heat Tolerance During the Summer Months
With the hot summer months upon us, let’s talk about how we can best beat the heat and continue to outdoor exercise during the sometimes brutal summer months with a smile on our faces!
Your body acclimates to heat in a number of ways, and by cautiously training in the heat to improve the efficiency of your body’s “cooling system,” you will not only be able to better tolerate high temps and humidity, but you’ll also be able to continue to participate in and enjoy your favorite outdoor activities and exercise classes — and may even be motivated to try some new ones!
Here are some important facts about training in the heat and a few tips for building heat tolerance:
Acclimating to Heat
The Body Mechanics: The body acclimates to heat with changes in circulation, increased blood flow to the skin for cooling, increased sweat production, and decreased sweat electrolyte concentration. As you adapt and acclimate to heat, the body begins sweating earlier in exercise, produces a greater volume of sweat, and produces more dilute sweat (losing fewer electrolytes.
How to Safely Acclimate: If you've been exercising outdoors for a while, you're acclimated! However, if you are newer to outdoor exercise, gradually increasing the duration of exercise in hot conditions allows the body to safely acclimate. With repeated, but cautious and gradual increases in daily exposure, acclimation occurs within 10-14 days, depending on your initial level of heat tolerance.
Tips for Better Cooling Your Body
It is the evaporation of sweat (not sweating itself) that cools the body, so wear wicking fabrics that allow sweat to evaporate and light colors that reflect the sun (dark colors absorb sunlight, and thus, heat).
Avoid exercising in the direct sun, but rather seek out green shady spots and trails (versus heat-absorbing pavement), preferably near water where air movement and breezes aid in the evaporative cooling of sweat.
Because as you adapt and acclimate to heat the body begins sweating earlier in exercise, produces a greater volume of sweat, and produces more dilute sweat (losing fewer electrolytes), PRE-hydration, hydration DURING, and RE-hydration are crucial! Therefore, increase your overall water/fluid intake during the 24 hours prior to a bout of exercise in the heat. More specifically:
1-2 hours beforehand, drink 15-20 oz of water
15 minutes beforehand, drink another 8-10 oz
During, drink 6-8 oz every 15 minutes
Afterward, continue to rehydrate, drinking 15-20 oz within an hour or two
Keep In Mind!
Be aware that although your body can and will acclimate to hot temps, you will not be able to exercise at the same intensity as you do in a “thermo-neutral” environment. With the changes in circulation to aid in cooling, more blood is sent to the skin for evaporation, less blood is available to the working muscles, and therefore the intensity of exercise must be reduced. Even after acclimating, exercise in extreme temps always requires caution. The following are symptoms of heat related illness and heat stroke. If you experience any of these, take immediate steps to cool down. Symptoms of Heat Stress/Illness:
Cold, moist skin
Weak or rapid pulse
Fast shallow breathing
High body temp (103+)
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