Heat training

As endurance athletes, we are always looking for ways to enhance our performance and get that extra edge. We will try anything from high-end carbon bikes and compression socks to men shaving their legs to get some extra “aero edge”. Lately, cold therapy has come into the spotlight, you’ve probably seen athletes sink into ice baths or get in a sub-zero cryotherapy booth. But what have you heard about training with heat? Heat training forces your body to learn how to deal with:

  1. Reduced blood volume and electrolytes: sweat water comes from blood plasma. This means the more you sweat, the less blood & electrolytes you'll have available to make your muscles function.

  2. Increased heart rate: less available blood means more strokes per minute for your heart to keep up the O₂ supply to the muscles, this makes the perception of effort higher than usual

  3. Anaerobic Threshold and VO₂ Max drop: less oxygen in the muscles means your body will start relying in the anaerobic system to produce energy (hello lactic acid!)

Dubai is especially hard because of the humidity, which keeps sweat from evaporating (this is what cools you, not the water). If you're a tall fella, it's even worse because more heat is produced by body mass in addition to more surface needing blood too cool itself. 

Heat adaptations normally take about two weeks to show, so be patient and don't push it. Just like anything in training, safe is better than sorry and baby steps are the way to go. If done correctly your body will be heat ready (and generally fitter for competition) by counteracting the effects above with: 

  1. Increased blood plasma volume:  More available blood volume to sustain increased sweating

  2. More efficient sweat: you'll sweat faster and more and with less electrolytes leaving the blood stream

  3. Decreased heart rate: more blood volume means your heart needs less beats to get that O₂ to your muscles

  4. Improved resilience to suffering: A more efficient system will work less hard, but you will also have put up with a lot of discomfort and are now tough as nails :)

There are two ways you can get your body ready to deal with the heat. The first one is passive heat training, where you expose your body to heat while doing nothing else. This training usually means sitting in a sauna or steam room for 40-50 minutes every 1 to 3 days. Dubai weather is not hot or humid enough to replicate a sauna or steam room, at least not consistently, but you can get similar effects by walking around for 30min every other during our hotter summer days. Remember, ALWAYS take water with you and if the discomfort level is too high, stop. 

The second kind of heat training, and the main focus of this article, is active training. This involves exercising at a low intensity anywhere from 45-60 minutes in temperatures of 40°C+. An active training protocol consists of an easy zone 2 60 minute ride or very easy run every other day for 2 or 3 weeks.

If you plan on doing heat training, start with easy sessions, even if this means walking most of the time. Ease into it and after a week or two you can try going a bit harder. Short intervals are key here. Also, expect to be slower and get tired quicker, be ready for these changes and don't over do it. 

A key factor to keep in mind when training in the heat is the importance of staying hydrated. Drink enough water and maybe a bit more before, during, and after you train. Your body needs the right ingredients for adaptations to happen. Training dehydrated will hurt your body and produce no gains.

Getting ready to train in the heat
Training outdoors requires some extra preparation and it’s a good excuse to know yourself better. Make sure you add some of these habits to your training during the summer:

  1. Know your sweat rate and composition: it will help you determine how much water and which electrolytes you'll need during training and competition. Steve Cronin can help you determine that if you click here

  2. Pre-training ice bath or cold shower: Yep, an ice bath will actually help you keep your temperature down for longer. Just don’t do it for too long

  3. Take it easy on the warm up: Less volume or dynamic stretching should do the trick, no reason to raise your temperature before you start working

  4. Keep a cooler nearby with lots of ice, water bottles, small towels soaking in the ice water, and even some fruit juices in case your sugar levels drop

Again, hydration here is utmost importance and it is crucial to always keep common sense above all. If you're feeling dizzy go inside or under shade, have some water, and call it a day. 

Positive adaptations will occur as soon as 10 days after starting a program and the training can be sustained anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. Adaptations from this type of training are lost after 7 days more or less, just like altitude training. So make sure to time it right if you’re suing this for a race.

If you want to discuss the subject in more detail or need help with making a plan for getting fit in the heat, email me at omar@gostrog.me or give me a call at 0561421045.

Train in the heat and Go Strong. 


Omar MartinezComment