I declared myself heat tolerant in a recent Tweet. I did a 3 hour bike ride in 99 plus degree heat at 5pm in the Texas heat and could still spit when I was done! That's a success in my book! It definitely took 2 full weeks of suffering in the heat and a good hydration plan to finally feel like my body had made the transition to feeling relatively comfortable in the soaring Texas summer heat.
Dehydration, heat stroke and hyponatremia are your biggest worries while training in the summertime. Whether you are in Texas or Rhode Island, when the temperature soars over 90 degrees, heat illness can seriously hamper your endurance training. Most of us have an "A" race on the calendar in the fall and require a lot of base training in the summer. No way around those long runs and even longer bike rides in the heat. The average triathlete can sweat up to one liter of fluid an hour while training and sweat contains about 3 grams of salt per liter. How can we conquer the heat? Preparation and constant hydration! Diligence is the key! Always stay one step ahead of the hydration curve. Remember that heat illness really can kill you and hyponatremia has taken out more than one healthy marathon runner and triathlete!
Here are some simple tips that will help you train safely in the heat:
- Hydrate all day long - Drink water throughout the entire day. Most people actually start their training runs already dehydrated. Especially when the temperature reaches triple digits, it is important to always have that water bottle near by.
- Prepare for your longer training runs and rides - This means dropping water bottles along the route before you start or making the route circle around many times so you can stop and pick up more water at your starting point.
- Drink a mixture of sports drink and water - Definitely mix it up. I always have a bottle of each on my bike.
- Consider salt tablets if you are running or biking more than 2 hours - Unless you can carry salty pretzels on your run, salt tablets are a must if you are sweating heavily.
- Never be afraid to get off your bike and run through a stranger's sprinklers - You may look like crazy, but cooling off and wetting your clothing can only help you stay cool! Putting ice down your shirt can also be helpful!
- Listen to your body - Especially in the beginning of your heat training, listen to the symptoms of heat illness. If you are nauseous, cramping, can't spit, have dry mouth, notice your hands and wrists are getting puffy and you are starting to feel goofy; STOP! Go home to run or ride another day.
- Avoid anti-inflammatories if you can - Ibuprofen and Tylenol actually can affect your kidney function. This can increase you chances of suffering from hyponatremia.
- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen - A bad sunburn will thwart your normal heat-regulation system. Heavy duty 70 plus water-proof sunblock is your friend!
- Weigh yourself before and after your training - Replace your weight loss with more fluids.
- Carry money - You never know when you may get lost and need to stop at a store for more sports drink or water.
- Train with a friend - They may notice your symptoms of heat-illness way before you do. Denial is never a good companion.
Heat-illness is real! Be smart while training this summer! Follow these tips, heat acclimatize over a period of several weeks, and be diligent about your hydration plan while training in the heat. Let's get to those fall races stronger and without any heat-related training drama! See you on the run!