Today I was a little conflicted about what to write. In the end I decided to write about beating the heat and the effects it can have on training and options you can choose to stay cool and still workout.
Slogging through a hot summer can be brutal to both your body and your performance. Hard workouts require more recovery due to sweat loss and extra exertion. While it’s great to walk out the door with shorts on and no shirt, you quickly feel the heat a mile down the road. Running while the Sun is high in the sky can mentally beat you down with it’s extra warm rays.
I love to run outdoors, but during the Summer here in Austin, the heat beats you into submission. I have a rather high sweat rate, so every run drains me of both water and electrolytes. I normally like to run in the mornings to try and beat the heat of the day, but some days, because of time or commitments, I have to run in the evenings. Running when the temps are 95 or more is tough, even for the best of us. When you finish you feel like a raisin as all the liquid has been sucked out of you. After each run I find myself guzzling down glassfuls of water and electrolyte replacements. Many nights I will wake up around midnight to get more water and next morning I still feel dehydrated.
To battle the temps, I have found that cross training is essential. My go to exercises are Nordic walking, cycling and swimming.
Nordic walking is probably the easiest, since it doesn’t require special clothing or travel. Even on the hottest days, Nordic walking is very doable. Since you’re not pushing the pace like you would running, your core body temperature doesn’t raise as much. I like to try and maintain a 12:30 – 13:30 pace. This seems fast enough to give me a good workout, yet not too fast to make me over heat. When Nordic walking I like to try to put in at least and hour to 1 1/2 hours. My typically Nordic workout will have me walking somewhere between 4 – 7 miles.
Cycling is another fantastic exercise when the temps get up there. You will stay cooler simply due to the breeze you generate as you pedal. If you are lucky like me, you can start cycling right out the door and not have to worry about packing up the bike to get to trail head. Finding a good 1 hour loop with limited stops is ideal. Right now I own a single speed mountain bike that I can maintain a comfortable 13mph pace. I am hoping to up my speed a few miles an hour by getting a bigger chainring. I am currently spinning out on slight declines. Out on the road I can typically maintain 18-20mph depending on wind direction and 23-24mph in a race.
Swimming of course is a great way to stay cool. The problem with swimming is it usually requires travel and often requires payment of some sort (monthly or daily). Here in Austin we have a variety of pools from indoor YMCA types to outdoor spring feed pools. Two of the bests are Barton Springs and Deep Eddy. Barton Springs is a 200 meter long pool without lane lines. Deep Eddy is more traditional, but it is a rather odd length of 33 meters. Of the 3 exercises, swimming usually takes a back seat, since it is less convenient and requires a bit more time. The advantage of swimming is it does cool down your core temperature, at least in beginning and is a great form of recovery exercise.
Now of course there is always the backup of working out indoors, but I try to avoid that as much as possible. Still indoor workouts do have their advantages. The environment is consistent and you’re not having to worry much about the weather, well that is unless it’s snowing or flooding or some other dramatic event.
So don’t let the heat get to you. Drink plenty of fluids both before and after the workout and think about adding additional sports into your workout regiment.