Exercising in the heat

This time in 2018, Leslie assisted the Cambridge University Association Football Club in an international football tournament in China, where temperatures reached upwards of 36°C on match days. Today he’s looked at our top tips for exercising in the heat (while it lasts!).

1. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can have a substantial effect on performance. Without adequate fluid intake, you will sweat less and hence be less efficient at losing heat whilst exercising. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and spread out your intake, rather than all at once. In addition to replenishing lost water, maintaining a balance of electrolytes is also key especially if sweating. Ensure you have an adequate intake of sodium and potassium and replenish stores before you exercise so your body has as much energy as possible.

Regardless of whether your training is endurance based or involves strength and conditioning, water is an essential requirement for protein synthesis. Keep up your intake to maximise muscle repair and growth!

2. Dress for the Occasion

Choosing lighter, thin and breathable clothing will help to maximise heat loss. These types of material and dry-fit clothes may also help to reduce skin irritation and heat rash if you suffer from it. Avoid training in dark colours that absorb and disperse more heat. Also, don’t forget the sun cream!

3. Blister Avoidance and Management

One of the most frustrating aspects of training in the heat are blisters. Keeping your feet and socks as dry as possible can help to reduce the likelihood of developing them, as wet skin is softer and less durable. Replace socks with dry ones in intervals where possible and ensure you wear appropriate footwear and socks that minimise rubbing against the skin. If you already have blisters, keep them covered with a sterile plaster or tape to reduce friction and keep them clean.

4. Cooling Strategies

Post-exercise, some of the best strategies for reducing your body temperature include cooling your peripheral body, such as the head and hands. Utilise a fan or try dousing your face with cool water or a wet flannel. Be sure to remove excess clothing and rehydrate. Avoid jumping straight to very cold temperatures such as drinking ice cold water or placing ice packs to the back of your head or neck.

Another strategy to try is pre-exercise cooling by staying in a colder environment before training. There is evidence that this can improve endurance performance by lowering your initial core temperature.

5. Avoid the Peak of the Day

Limit your strenuous activities in the peak of the day (which is generally 11 am – 4 pm) when the sun is at its hottest. We suggest going out first thing or in the evening when slightly cooler.

6. Know the Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

Being active in conditions a lot hotter than you are used to can be a big change for your body to adapt to. When exercising in the heat, if you experience headaches, nausea, light-headedness, visual problems or muscle cramps, these are firm indications that you need to rehydrate and lower your body temperature in a cooler environment. Listen to your body!

7. Train for Benefits

Prior to travelling, the players trained in hotter conditions in the UK to adjust to the heat they were about to face. Heat acclimation when training in hotter weather can carry global benefits to your fitness and performance, including more efficient sweating/heat loss, increased blood plasma volume, circulation efficiency and faster metabolism. These adaptations are additionally transferable to performance in cooler conditions.