Forgotten Aspects of Fitness: Heat

Ten minutes of recovery, severe disorientation and a massive headache were all things I felt shortly after finishing a high-intensity weight-lifting competition Saturday morning. As I sat panting in the heat, I was suddenly very aware that I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules to competitive training…train in your race environment. If you want to push your fitness to its limit, train your body to deal with every condition.

Are our programs making us fit?

Fitness is defined a little differently for each of us but if our fitness programs don’t help us do our lives better, they fall tragically short of adequate. My wake-up call came in the midst of a barrage of  olympic lifts under the 80-something degree sun.

Had I trained? Definitely.

Had I trained in a diverse environment? Definitely not … and I suffered.

Most of my high intensity training was done in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym. While my muscles, core, joints and cardiovascular ability grew stronger, my body’s ability to deal with the real world did not. Ultimately, this is what stopped me.

If we want true fitness, or the ability to tackle every obstacle that comes our way, we have to get out of the gym to force our bodies to adapt to the weight we push, the speeds we run and the elements we train in. Our fitness will always lack if our bodies can’t hack the heat.

Isn’t proper hydration enough?

Do you get dizzy or fatigue when you run outside, numbness or tingling when you work in the yard, performance losses in your sports? It must be from dehydration!

“Dehydration” is a knee-jerk word spew for exercisers, doctors and trainers across the globe. It’s safe because no one can say you should be less-hydrated. It allows us to hide from our “I don’t knows.” But studies have shown that athletes usually collapse because of vasodialation, not dehydration. When our bodies get hot, they try to cool down as quickly possible by activating sweat gland and opening up the blood vessels to push blood to the surface of the skin. This process is called vasodilation. If your body is not used to the stress of heat, it could buckle under this rapid response and cause you to puke, pass out or have a headache. Training in the heat will teach your body to deal with this response and create effective ways to remove heat from the body.

How do I train my body to be ultra-fit?

Start training in the heat! As with any exercise protocol, work your way in to it. Spend 10 minutes of your 60 minute workout outside and add another 10 minutes every one to two weeks. Change time and intensity based on how hot it is outside and continue to hydrate. Some studies are showing that drinking an ice-slurry before or during exercise can help cool the core better than water and improve time to exhaustion by 30 minutes.

How do I improve my PR with this elemental training idea?

Athletes trying to break their personal records can try drinking an ice-slurry pre and mid-race. Studies have shown that 7.5 g/kg of an ice slurry consumed pre-race can help cool core temperature and improve performance more than cold water and equally as much as submersion in an ice-bath.

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References:

  • Cui, J., Arbab-Zadeh, A. et. Al., Effects of Heat Stress on Thermoregulatory Responses in Congestive Heart Failure Patients. Circulation. 2005; 112: 2286-2292
  • Noakes, Timothy David M.D., Dehydration During Exercise: What Are the Real Dangers?. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, April 1995 v5; I2 (PDF)

http://journals.lww.com/cjsportsmed/Abstract/1995/04000/Dehydration_During_Exercise__What_Are_the_Real.9.aspx

  • Siegel, R., Thermoregulatory and Exercise Performance Responses to Cooling with Ice Slurry Ingestion. Edith Cowan University, 7 April 2011

http://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1148&context=theses

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