With the summer temperatures rising across the country the temptation to skip a workout or two can be very strong. This could be especially true if you are training for an endurance event that involves running. A 2019 study published in the Journal Of Sport And Health Science found that when faced with challenging weather conditions, 51.8% participants would delay exercise because of excessive heat. However, that’s exactly the one thing that we must not do.
“In India, the weather is either too cold or too hot, however, we must not stop our exercise. We need to exercise to ensure that we maintain good physical and mental health,” says Dr Sushila Kataria, senior director of internal medicine at Medanta Hospital, Gurugram. “It’s just that we should exercise with precautions,” she adds.
In fact, studies have shown that heat acclimation actually helps enhance your performance. So, in case you are an endurance athlete gunning for a target time, training in the summer months and racing in the autumn months would actually help you go faster on race day. And even if you aren’t racing, better performance in training means you achieve your targets much quicker while also getting stronger and better, says trainers and fitness experts.
It is already well demonstrated that living at high altitude, while training at sea level can improve aerobic exercise performance in athletes. This “live-high-train-low” approach was the first to leverage environmental exposure (like hypoxia) and associated adaptations to improve aerobic exercise performance outside the adaptation environment, note authors of a 2010 study published in the Journal Of Applied Physiology. The study examined the impact of heat acclimation on aerobic performance in cool (13°C) conditions. The findings demonstrate that, “10 days of heat acclimation provide considerable ergogenic benefits in cool conditions. In addition, heat acclimation provided the expected performance benefits in hot conditions.”
Heat acclimation induces numerous physiological adaptations that theoretically could improve aerobic exercise performance in cool-temperate conditions. These physiological adaptations include reduced oxygen uptake, muscle glycogen sparing, reduced blood lactate, increased skeletal muscle force generation, plasma volume expansion and increased ventricular compliance.
However, given the high temperatures that India experiences, it is best to proceed with caution when working out in the summers. There are plenty of tricks to keep your fitness and training routine on track while keeping away the heat-induced risks. Kataria suggests that you exercise either very early in the morning or late evening.
Also, you should never workout outdoors in the afternoon when the sun is directly overhead, says medical experts. Another thing that you must keep in mind while training during the summer months is to hydrate well, because you sweat so much that several vitamins and minerals from your body are lost when you are training, says Kataria. “That is why hydration is important—so that you don’t suffer from muscle cramps. Hydrate yourself well, not only before the workout but also during the workout,” she says. However, you need to do this in a correct way as well. “If you drink water at frequent intervals, it helps in preventing dehydration. However, if you drink large quantities of water in one sitting, it is not as effective in ensuring proper hydration,” she says.
Another important thing to keep in mind is this—make sure you replenish the salts that your body loses when you train. However, avoid taking salts if you have a heart or kidney condition, warns Kataria. You could even have a balanced electrolyte drink or coconut water for hydration during the workout. Kataria also suggests wearing training clothes that are breathable and comfortable.
Sometimes, even despite our best efforts, summers may be difficult to cope with because heat can certainly have you beat. In such cases, listen to your body. “If you feel dizzy and weak don’t over exercise,” says Kataria, adding, “To avoid sunstroke, the hour of the day when you exercise is key. For summers all exercises are good but only with precautions.”
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.