by Alli Phillips
With the hot summer months quickly approaching, let’s talk about how we can best beat the heat and continue to enjoy outdoor exercise during those sometimes brutal summer months with a smile on our faces!
Your body acclimates to heat in a number of ways, and by cautiously training in the heat to improve the efficiency of your body’s “cooling system,” you will not only be able to better tolerate high temps and humidity (like we have here in Austin), but you’ll also be able to continue to participate in and enjoy your favorite outdoor activities and exercise classes — and may even be motivated to try some new ones!
Here are some important facts about training in the heat and a few tips for building heat tolerance:
Acclimating to Heat
- The Body Mechanics: The body acclimates to heat with changes in circulation, increased blood flow to the skin for cooling, increased sweat production, and decreased sweat electrolyte concentration. As you adapt and acclimate to heat, the body begins sweating earlier in exercise, produces a greater volume of sweat, and produces more dilute sweat (losing fewer electrolytes).
- How to Safely Acclimate: Gradually increasing the duration of exercise in hot conditions allows the body to safely acclimate. With repeated, but cautious and gradual increases in daily exposure, acclimation occurs within 10-14 days, depending on your initial level of heat tolerance.
Tips for Better Cooling Your Body
- It is the evaporation of sweat (not sweating itself) that cools the body, so wear wicking fabrics that allow sweat to evaporate and light colors that reflect the sun (dark colors absorb sunlight, and thus, heat).
- Avoid exercising in the direct sun, but rather seek out green shadey spots and trails (versus heat-absorbing pavement), preferably near water where air movement and breezes aid in the evaporative cooling of sweat.
Because as you adapt and acclimate to heat the body begins sweating earlier in exercise, produces a greater volume of sweat, and produces more dilute sweat (losing fewer electrolytes), PRE-hydration, hydration DURING, and RE-hydration are crucial!
Therefore, increase your overall water/fluid intake during the 24 hours prior to a bout of exercise in the heat. More specifically:
- 1-2 hours beforehand, drink 15-20 oz of water
- 15 minutes beforehand, drink another 8-10 oz
- During, drink 6-8 oz every 15 minutes
- Afterward, continue to rehydrate, drinking 15-20 oz within an hour or two
Keep In Mind!
Be aware that although your body can and will acclimate to hot temps, you will not be able to exercise at the same intensity as you do in a “thermo-neutral” environment.
- With the changes in circulation to aid in cooling, more blood is sent to the skin for evaporation, less blood is available to the working muscles, and therefore the intensity of exercise must be reduced.
- When you’re running or cycling in the heat, use a “rating of perceived effort” or “feel” to gauge the intensity of exercise, instead of your watch, as your pace/speed will be slower than at the same effort level in moderate/mild conditions. (Runners and cyclists should let go of any pace/time-based goals for the summer months.)
Even after acclimating, exercise in extreme temps always requires extreme caution. The following are symptoms of heat related illness and heat stroke. If you experience any of these, take immediate steps to cool down and seek medical attention.
Symptoms of Heat Stress/Illness:
- Cold, moist skin
- Muscle cramps
- Weak or rapid pulse
- Fast shallow breathing
- High body temp (103+)
Adjust Your Route
Finally, when running and/or cycling this summer, plan new routes that start, finish, and/or include stops at pools, splash pads, and natural “watering holes,” to cool off, rehydrate, refuel, and ENJOY AUSTIN!
Here, I’ve put together a few cool spots to cool off here in central Austin:
- Barton Springs Pool/Spillway
- Deep Eddy Pool
- West Enfield Pool
- Big Stacy Pool
- Ramsey Pool
- NorthWest Park Pool
- Clarksville West Austin Wading Pool
- Little Stacy Wading Pool
- Butler Park Splash Pad
- Pease Park Splash Pad
- Bailey Park Splash Pad
- Clarksville Splash Pad
Visit austintexas.gov/pools for pool/splash-pad locations, hours, and more info.
Last, but not Least…
One more suggestion for staying cool this summer while enjoying fitness and fun…don’t just exercise near water — take the plunge and try these activities IN the water:
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