It’s getting to a rare stage in Irish weather that people are actually complaining about the heat. The day this is written temperatures are set to reach 30°C and its 27°C already. It is almost getting too hot for Irish people to train in, or at least to train outside. The roads are hot and being Ireland the humidity is high, and people just aren’t comfortable getting their sweat on in these conditions. Those who do feel the effects on performance, lacking in effort due to the slaving heat. But why and how does the temperature affect training, and is there anything we can do to over-come it?
First and foremost comes the fact we all know which is that people need to acclimatise to their conditions. The heat affects us more because we are not used to it. It is why your first day on holidays hopping off the plane can feel like the hottest. You almost immediately start to sweat, which is an automatic response from our bodies to help bring down the temperature. Our sweat glands release fluid in order to dissipate heat through evaporation, keeping us at body temperature. This is actually a very efficient process, but there is one thing that can really grind it to a halt, and that is humidity.
Humidity is the concentration of water vapour found in the air. The hotter the air, the higher a concentration of vapour it can contain. Just think of the heat inside a steam room and the amount of moisture it can hold. Relative humidity is the reading of water vapour held in the air, where a complete reading of 100 should result in precipitation. Although this would reading would generally be high up in the clouds. It doesn’t have to be 100 to rain either, the chances just increase the higher it is. The more water vapour in the air the harder your body will find it to dissipate heat, as the air will allow less evaporation from your skin. If the air can’t allow evaporation, heat cannot dissipate which is why humid conditions become more uncomfortable. It is said that 30°C in low humidity will feel like 27°C, but in high humidity it will feel like 33°C.
So humid conditions can make things uncomfortable and cause you to over-heat, but when it is low it can have a negative effect as well. When humidity is low evaporation increases making you sweat more which can lead to dehydration (dehydration can still occur when humid is high). It is shown that in a loss of just 2% body weight from fluids can lead to a 6% drop in performance. That 6% is just what might give you that extra push to break goals. To add to it, when you sweat profusely your blood volume decreases, as blood is now flowing heavier to the skin to aid in the dissipation of heat. As blood volume drops so doe’s internal blood flow, affecting how much oxygenated blood can reach the cells to fuel your performance.
So what can we do to stop it? Well, you can take steps but its not possible to reverse the effects. The obvious one is to stay hydrated, drink plenty of water before, after and during training. Just be sure to take small sips and not big gulps. A good idea before longer spells of training is to take electrolytes like Dioralyte a day or two before hand, or just after a particularly sweaty session. This will help replace your electrolyte and minerals salts which are needed for proper muscle firing. It is also important to know that you adapt to the heat quickly, in just about two weeks. So if you have something you are training for in a hotter climate, it’s a good idea to wrap up while training to mimic the heat. It’s a way of acclimatising beforehand.
Besides these few helpers, it’s really about knowing your limitations. Performance will drop in the heat, you just have to be safe. Nothing is worse for muscle recovery than dehydration, and a loss of electrolytes is a cause of muscle cramping (which sucks). So get out and enjoy the heat, because before too long expect me to be writing an article on training in our current sub-zero comditions!