It’s that time of year… temperatures are soaring here in Dubai, and although our alarm clocks are gradually being set to earlier and earlier start times to try and beat that heat and humidity, we cannot fully escape it. Our sessions will feel harder! We end up hot sweaty mess, red-faced, heavy breathing, and soaking shoes… To an extent we just have to learn to deal with it, But there are some ways that we can make them suck a little less
Hot weather can be challenging on its own, but when we add humidity into the mix, things rapidly escalate, and the reason behind that is down to sweat!! Because there’s already water in the air, our sweat cannot evaporate as readily as it does when conditions are drier. And that’s the mechanism that cools us down. The evaporation of the sweat. Humidity interferes with that mechanism, which means we struggle to cool down. But this isn’t the only reason why it feels harder. The interference of that cooling mechanism, sends a signal to our brain to send more blood to our skin, to help the effort in cooling it down. More blood to the skin means less blood to our muscles and an increase in core body temperature… All these added together, increase the effort required (and perceived) for any given pace or intensity, thereby also increasing respiratory rate: We have to breathe more!
Doesn’t sound like much fun does it? So should we just switch all our training indoors? No! Ultimately we are expected to race in similar conditions so the more used to it our bodies become, the better prepared we will be come race day. Training in these conditions, means greater training returns when the weather conditions improve, because we will have a higher blood plasma volume, our sweat rate will increase, whereas our core temperature at the onset of sweating will decrease! All these will help us push harder in better conditions! And the reality is, there are many steps that we can take to help make training in these conditions feel a little less terrible! (but.. to a point, we’re just gonna have to embrace the suck!!)
Step 1: Hydrate!!!
Not just during your session, but make sure you arrive at your session already well hydrated. If you start your session already in a dehydrated state, the impact of the humidity on blood redistribution and the inevitable core temperature rise will be expedited! Start hydrated, and stay hydrated and this can be delayed! Water alone won’t do! When we sweat we lose minerals and electrolytes, so we need to replace those as well as fluid. Drinking only plain water can flush our system from these essential nutrients like sodium and potassium and can actually lead to a rare but dangerous condition known as hyponatremia. This essentially means there’s not enough sodium in the blood and though rare can cause nausea, headaches and brain fog. So make sure you have added some sodium or electrolytes tablets into your water. How much we should drink varies from person to person, a sweat test can answer this in more detail but if you’d like to check a quick field test to do, is weigh yourself before and after a session. What you lose in weight is fluids! Replace those! The intensity of your session will also dictate what you need. An easy session that doesn’t last more than an hour can be addressed after the session ends by drinking to thirst, however for harder sessions and longer ones ideally you will include carbohydrates in addition to electrolytes. Carbohydrate ingestion post -exercise helps primarily with rebuilding muscle glycogen stores however it also enhances fluid absorption. Two birds, one stone! Rehydrate quicker, recover faster!
Step 2: Keep cool!
So while we refer to not using plain water to hydrate, keep plain cold water nearby and use that to cool off when you need to. We feel the heat mostly on our face. It’s a safety mechanism that our body uses to let us know that we’re hotting up… so start first by cooling off your face, that will go a long way to reduce the feel and perception of heat! Wear a light hat if needs be, and pour cold water over your head. You can use a buff as well that’s been soaked in water to help. Ice if you can keep us to hand, can help… the same way we use it in races, set up your training session so that you can have a cool box nearby with what you need. Plan ahead!
Step 3: Pace yourself!
Or rather to be more accurate, adjust your pace expectations! Exercise in heat and humidity can lower our pace by 15% or even more in hotter more humid conditions! A given pace will require more effort and it will feel even more so. Allow for that! Listen to your body. It will intuitively tell you if you need to slow down! Take breaks if you need, drop the pace. The effort will still be there so will the training adaptation. The good news is the more your train in these conditions the easier it becomes as you acclimate.
Step 4: Plan your session times
If you intend on training outdoors, then there’s only one way really to try and beat this. Midday for example would be a no-go. The sun is at its highest so even with humidity a little less, it will make the whole thing feel much harder. Mornings can in fact be more humid than afternoons because the air temperature is lower. So afternoons though warmer can feel a little drier! Consider your lifestyle and other demands on your time and schedule your workout accordingly and plan for that
Step 5: Wear the right clothing!
Technology is on our side here. Many sports brands now develop their clothing so that they can promote an evaporative cooling effect of sweat. They will cost a little more, but they will go a long way to help make the sessions in heat and humidity feel a little more comfortable. The more skin that is exposed to the air, the better the sweat evaporation.
Don’t forget to use Vaseline or your preferred body glide or anti chafe cream before every session and of course sunscreen.
Step 6: Be mindful of signs of heat related illness (for you and your training partners)!
· Feeling light headed or dizzy
· Muscle cramps
· Reduced sweat production (not as easy to spot, if you’re already sweaty and sticky!)
These are both early signs of heat exhaustion and you should take them seriously. Move into cooler conditions, stop exercising and focus on hydration! Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke which is a serious condition and can be life threatening