It's summer and boy, oh boy, is it hot outside! While there are many reasons to feel blessed to live in the beautiful place that I do, heat indexes well over 110 degrees and humidity regularly over 50% (and commonly over 80%) are two reasons to develop a healthy respect for Austin, Texas summers.
For those that do not live in the South and Southwest, here's a fun little taste of my weather forecast this week:
What does looking at this forecast do for me besides inform my complaining about the weather and cause my alarm clock to ring earlier? It lets me know it's time to take precautions that will allow me to train and race in these conditions while staying cool and hydrated!
If you live in a hot area, or will travel to one for a race, there are a few key factors to keep in mind: Hydration, clothing choices, timing, and self-care!
There many magic formulas out there for keeping yourself hydrated. They're all different, and none are necessarily wrong. There is no one solid number, because your hydration needs fluctuate with the weather, your body composition, what you ate that day, and your workout load. While water is absolutely a key factor to hydration, other sources help too. Hydrating foods, such as fresh fruits and veggies, add ounces to your body while providing additional nutrients.
The best rule of thumb I've found is to watch your pee. As long as it is light yellow and you're going to the bathroom regularly, you are hydrating properly! Runners, cyclists, and triathletes all tend to monitor our bodily fluids with somewhat gross precision, and know the pride of discovering just how hydrated you are!
Obviously, when working out in the heat, your hydration needs increase. Again, there are many ways to figure out your optimal hydration levels. If you are training, or just a heavy sweater in hot weather, you also need to take in electrolytes to balance what you are losing through sweat. My favorite way to cover all of these bases is with Infinit Nutrition, since they create a custom formula for me based on the exercise habits I share with them. If you're not ready to dial things in quite that precisely, a good thing to keep in mind is to drink at least 21-24 ounces of water per hour of exercise, consuming salt/electrolytes as needed based on your rate of sweat, in addition to your other caloric intake (gels, bars, blocks, etc.) Be sure you bring enough fluids for your whole workout or know where to re-full. Dehydration is dangerous and no joke!
|When mountain biking in the heat, I carry a 2 Liter Camelback pack full of Infinit. I've been known to drink it ALL on an 8 mile ride!|
No surprise here, what you wear matters when it comes to how hot you get! There are approximately one zillion options out there, but of course, my favorites in hot weather are Moxie's tank style jerseys. I hate wearing sleeves in the heat, and the moisture-wicking fabrics help draw away the sweat and keep me cool in the breezes created while I ride.
I also ensure my bike helmet has plenty of vents to allow as much breeze as possible to flow through, and that my socks are moisture-wicking as well to keep my feet dry! A good set of sunglasses, my trusty Handana, and plenty of water in my bottles, and I'm ready to go!
Although it's difficult to wear non-restrictive clothing in the heat when it comes to cycling compression gear, it is good to keep in mind that the more vented, light weight, and flowing the clothing is, the more easily your body will be able to regulate itself.
|Sporting a Moxie sweetheart jersey on my bike commute to work, water bottle in hand!|
When it comes to regular training in the heat, sometimes timing is everything! If you've got long distance training on the schedule, learn to be an early bird and you'll save yourself a lot of sweat and proverbial (or literal) tears. Run and ride early in the morning before the heat of the day hits. If that is not possible, wait until the sun is setting to find some relief. Another trick I've used is breaking the workout up to be indoors and outdoors. For example, running to the gym, hitting the treadmill for a break in the shade and to grab some cold water from the fountain, and then running back in the heat for home. This allows your core to take a break from the sun and humidity and lets you acclimate over time, rather than all at once for the whole workout. Using good timing is nicer to your brain, and your body. Don't let yourself cry- you'll need the salt!
The last key to staying cool and hydrated is self care. We all complain about the heat, but there is no reason to let it become dangerous as well as uncomfortable.
Hydrating properly means you prevent dehydration, which can compound in to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Signs include sudden lack of sweating, hot and flush skin, exhaustion, crankiness, dizziness, and in severe cases vomiting, unconsciousness, and organ failure. Seriously. Know the signs and symptoms and take proper care of yourself to prevent them! Should you begin experiencing early signs of heat exhaustion, STOP and take a break. Heat illnesses are not a time to "push through the pain," and no PR or goal is worth your life.
While less serious in an immediate sense, another important factor to self care is sunscreen! There are as many options out there as there are outfit choices, so do a little reading to find a broad-spectrum formula that works for you. I prefer a sport formula meant to withstand sweat and water with an SPF of at least 50. The key is to remember to re-apply! Every sunburn we get damages our skin, and that skin damage is linked to skin cancer. So not worth it, and you'll thank me for this advice when your tan lines are semi under control!
The last point about self care is to listen to your body. As the temperatures rise, our bodies, especially our hearts, are working harder to adapt to the heat. You'll find yourself slowing down, getting tired more quickly, and sometimes recovering more slowly from hard efforts. This is totally normal and not a reflection of your fitness! Allow yourself to walk a little, take a nap when you're done, move a workout if you're seriously not feeling it. The better you treat your body, the better it will treat you, and your end fitness goal will still be obtained.
|Follow these tips and you'll enjoy a sweaty, but safe, summer training season!|