The Heat Wave Workout: How to Train in Hot Weather
Learn how exercising in muggy, hot weather can actually improve your performance—plus, signs you should take it easy outside.
Safety Tips for Hot Workouts
Elevating your core body temperature so much that you pass out (or worse!) during a workout is not going to score you any points in the fitness department, so it's up to you to know your limits. “People just need to be wise enough to listen to their bodies,” says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., a fitness expert for the American Council on Exercise. “It isn’t a ‘no pain, no gain’ situation.” Try these tips to stay safe when the heat is on.
Drink up. You obviously sweat more as it gets hotter and more humid, so you’ve got to make sure you’re replacing all those fluids as you run, bike, or do other workouts in such extreme weather. Dr. Bryant recommends consuming 16 to 24 ounces of water a couple hours before exercising in hot temperatures. Past that, he says to take in another six to eight ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise. If you’re looking to do something moderate for less than an hour, water should be fine, but anything more intense will require sports drinks to get those carbohydrates and electrolytes, he says.
Mind the humidity. Humidity is also a huge factor to take into account, and it’s something Minson’s study didn’t test for. “The principle way in which the body cools itself during exercise is through sweat,” Dr. Bryant says. “It hits our skin's surface and it evaporates to cool the body. In a humid environment, you don’t experience as much of that evaporative cooling effect because the environment is already pretty saturated with fluid.” Bryant says to consider moving activity indoors on days that are extremely hot and humid, since it just makes the environment particularly stressful on your body.
Don't go overboard. Finally, know that you can still be in good shape without heat acclimating. Minson and Bryant each say they only recommend it to very fit, competitive athletes who need to be ready for weather extremes and/or want to get an edge.
Still, if you’re a serious recreational athlete planning to run a marathon or compete in some sort of weekend-long competition, it’s better to get your training in when the heat is on and be ready in case you’re up against 95-degree weather with high humidity at your next event. There, you might feel tempted to push your body past its limits, but in training, you have the chance to improve your heat acclimation and conditioning over time without pushing yourself too hard. Make sure to wear breathable clothing and don’t go overboard on intensity during the first couple hot workouts.