Training in the heat and humidity

It's that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when the asphalt really starts to cook. It's getting hot! Some athletes acclimate more quickly and deal better with the heat than others. Whichever boat you find yourself in, here are a few quick tips for those of you living and training in a hot (and possibly humid) environment.

Increase your total fluid intake both during training sessions and throughout the rest of the day. A common occurrence among endurance athletes is to play catch-up with fluid intake post-workout, resulting in a state of chronic dehydration.

One of the common symptoms of dehydration is fatigue. Imagine training for an Ironman. Now imagine it with the added challenge of dehydration-induced fatigue on a daily basis (not to mention the performance erosion dehydration causes). Drink more water during the summer months.

Consider adding electrolyte supplements to your nutrition plan during training. There are plenty of choices out there, ranging from regular table salt or engineered electrolyte supplements that you could add to your current drink or take in pill form, to specific formulas designed to help you meet the needs of extreme environments. One that can be customized to suit your particular needs is Infinit Nutrition.

Endurance athletes on a low sodium diet or athletes with a high sweat rate may find that they will need to add salt to their foods while training in extreme conditions. Those of you with pre-existing hypertension should consult a sports-knowledgeable MD about your specific situation. Generally speaking, you will excrete more electrolytes and minerals when exercising for long periods of time.

Sleep more. As your body adjusts to the demands of training and racing in a hot environment, it will more than likely demand more rest in between sessions to recover from the greater stress the heat entails. Rest and recovery are equally important parts of your training regimen.

Pace yourself appropriately. For most of us extreme conditions require that we adjust our pacing and use perceived exertion and heart rate during training and racing. It doesn't matter if you can run an 18:00 5k in 50 degree and dry weather. If it's 90 degrees and 85% humidity, you will more than likely need to slow down - or face heat related illnesses like heat cramps and heat exhaustion.

Some studies have shown that pre-cooling before exercise in hot and humid conditions can improve performance during the session. It seems that most of these studies include a training session of 30 minutes, so the utility of a cold shower before a five hour bike ride may be limited. However, putting ice on your head and neck in between running intervals on a hot day can certainly help.

Wear your sunscreen, sunglasses, and wide brimmed hats. Sunscreen melts off more quickly when you sweat, so reapply frequently. Bring a stick on long rides. Keep your eyes shielded from the sun as well - long term damage can accrue from sun your eyes.

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon coach who lives in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Marty has been coaching endurance athletes since 2002. You can read more about OSB coaching services at

One Step Beyond is the producer of the Powerstroke®: Speed through force and form freestyle technique DVD, intended to help new to intermediate triathlon swimmers become faster and more powerful in the water.