Many IRONMAN races are either in the late summer or early fall, which means some intense weeks of training will be smack dab in the middle of the hottest months of the year. The heat puts extra stress on the body in a rested state, let alone when you’re tackling a hill climb. Understandably, heat plus intense exercise can equal a recipe for disaster. Your muscles can begin to breakdown, your heart rate could increase to a dangerous level which makes it difficult for your body to function properly and will set you on a path towards heat illness instead of the finish line. Training in summer heat and humidity can be tricky—but with some basic know-how and the right planning, you can tackle those extra sweaty training sessions with ease.
Here are our top eight tips for training in the heat:
1. Get acclimated: If you know that you are going to be racing in the heat or humidity try to do some shorter training sessions in similar conditions to learn how your body reacts.
2. Prepare for the distance: Hot and humid conditions aren’t necessarily the time to attempt a record-setting pace or a distance greater than what you’ve already completed. Heat and humidity increase the challenge and stress of the workout, so it’s important to consult with your coach often on your training plan and make sure you are fully prepared for the obstacles that lie ahead.
3. Begin hydrated: Start your workout well hydrated, don’t overdo it though, because being over-hydrated can cause just as many issues as being under-hydrated. An easy guide for hydration is the urine test—if your urine is pretty pale or clear the night before a training session, or if you have to empty your bladder immediately when you wake up the next day your hydration levels are in good shape. However, if your urine is on the darker side you’ll want to increase your fluid intake throughout the day to get back on track. Generally, consuming half of your weight in ounces of water per day is good place to start. (Ex. 100 lbs. = 50 oz. water/day)
4. Perfect your fuel plan: Plan for your hydration and sodium needs for the duration of your workout to ensure you’ll have adequate energy stores to make it through the workout, as well as the rest of your day. Conducting a sweat rate test to estimate your hourly fluid needs during exercise can be helpful. This gives you an estimate of how much fluid you will need to drink while you are training. Training in the heat requires additional sodium and minerals—plus, most coaches now recommend drinking a sport drink that incorporates sodium and electrolytes like Gatorade Endurance formula, during warm weather workouts.
5. Stick to a fluid schedule: Failing to schedule and ultimately implement your fluid intake during training, or a race can become costly. Don’t let yourself bonk out over something that is so easy to control. Setting a timer to remind you to drink your fluids is extremely helpful when training in hot and humid weather. When it’s extremely hot outside it’s easy to forget about your plan, but many athletes set a timer to alert them every 10 to 15 minutes and will check on the hour how much fluid they have consumed to make sure they aren’t falling behind.
6. Dress appropriately: When training or racing in the heat it’s important to wear the right threads. Technical fabrics that wick the water and sweat away from your skin will help to keep you comfortable throughout your session or race. Use a well-vented helmet to allow air flow to reach your head on the bike and a visor— if possible— on the run to allow heat to escape while shading your face. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen for the long days in the sun—but don’t apply any to your forehead because when you sweat it will get into your eyes and sting—this is when wearing a visor comes in handy.
7. Beware of heat distress: Everybody handles heat differently. It’s good to be familiar with how you handle the heat and to be familiar with the symptoms of heat distress so you can do a self-check along the way. Here are a few things to ask yourself: Are you dizzy or disoriented? Are you sweating and have you peed recently? Do you feel like you have a fever? Can you gather saliva in your mouth to spit? Are your eyes dry? Do you have liquid sloshing in your belly? Are you cramping and nauseated? When you know the symptoms you can be on the lookout for them and prevent something as serious as a heat stroke before it begins.
8. Monitor your heart rate: If your heart rate is higher than normal for the effort you are exerting or lower than normal, it could be a sign of trouble. Of course, you have to know your training zones for this to work, but a heart rate monitor can be a great tool to help you determine if the heat is throwing you out of whack.
This post was first published by Amy Stone at Ironman Blog.