A heatwave can have both its ups and downs. Barbecues, ice cream, and long evenings outdoors? Love them. Dealing with hot, grumpy children, who don’t sleep, and are tired of being plastered in factor 50? A lot less so.
We all respond to and enjoy the heat to varying degrees, and it can have a big impact on how and when we get our exercise in.
But with just a few adaptations, keeping moving as the temperature rises shouldn’t necessarily be a problem. And it doesn’t always have to mean getting up with the birds before the heat builds, in order to squeeze it in! (Unless of course you really, really want to).
In truth, our bodies quickly become accustomed to training in the heat. It might take a week or two, but we can become even more efficient in our response to exercise during a period like this, and these adaptations are shown to be beneficial when training at any temperature. In fact, some elite athletes will actually seek training opportunities in the heat to improve their performance.
So why is this? When we are hot on the outside, predictably our core temperature also rises. The body sends blood towards the surface (aka skin!) in order to help us regulate and dissipate that heat. We see our blood volume increase, which allows our heart to pump a greater volume per minute (aerobic power). On top of this, we start to sweat BIG TIME - at speed and in greater quantity. Lovely!
So even if the work you’re doing as the heat builds is feeling both harder and slower, your body is actually becoming all the more efficient and improving its cardiovascular fitness too. Yay! A brilliant reason to never again feel red-faced about getting a red face. Or to worry when you’ve got a little bit of a sheen going on – just smile and remember this is you, and nature, at its most proficient.
But before planning your week, as the temperature is predicted to hit 31 degrees on Thursday, there are a few things to consider.
Lower your expectations !
Moving in this heat is likely to feel different, slower, and/or harder. Particularly if it becomes humid, which affects the heat exchange from your body to the environment. That’s all okay! Just move at a speed that feels right for you, on that day. Trust your body and don’t push too hard too soon. Ease yourself into your work out and keep checking in on how you really feel. Moving little and often over this period is also a good approach.
Food and hydration
Once thirsty we’re already on our way to becoming dehydrated and may suddenly be more tempted to chug a huge amount of water at once. This could dilute blood sodium to an unhelpful level, particularly if we have also been sweating buckets. So it is a balance, but if we’re not talking about marathons or super lengthy sessions, it should be an easy enough one to strike. Just keep yourself topped with the water throughout the day and not just when it comes to training. Try and get in lots of fruit and veggies also high in water content. And if you do have a real long, hard, super sweaty session, just a few slightly salty, carby snacks afterwards might be one way to restore that sodium balance.
You can take it inside, perhaps in one of the cooler rooms of the house, and get the fans set up if you have them. A water spray or cold wet flannel to the face or back of the neck during or post workout can also feel amazing and do wonders to cool you down. Any smaller people you have in the house will likely be delighted to administer it for you!
If you are outside, take it to a shady spot where you can enjoy a breeze. Also staying in one place for a session or keeping your run or ride in loops close to home means you can easily break and head in if the heat becomes too much.
Breathable clothing light in colour is great. Some leggings – funky though they may look – are in fact not so breathable. Over the years I've definitely learned this the hard way! So perfect time to get the shorts on.
Finally, do remember any dizziness, nausea, or cramps are signs of possible heat-related illness not to be ignored. If you recognise these, just stop and let someone know. Do what you can to bring your body temperature down, and in the unlikely event the symptoms do call the doctor.
So there we go – no reason not to Move Happy! Wishing you a happy and safe heatwave.