In my sport, training in the heat is something you cannot avoid. In fact, it is somewhat of a must if I want to have any chance of being successful in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, one of the hottest and most unforgivably humid race courses on the planet. I am lucky, because I tend to thrive in the heat, and I much prefer a warm training and racing environment to a cold one. Whether you are someone who enjoys the heat, or someone who prefers the cold, there are a few precautions we should all take when doing any activities in warm weather conditions.
The first, and I might even venture to say the most important is to stay hydrated. Start early and stay on top of hydration throughout your workouts. The moment you get behind on hydration, the quality of your workout will diminish. Having a lower quality workout however should be the least of your concerns. Being dehydrated can damage your body, and lead to long term problems that nobody wants to face. Stay on top of hydration, especially the day BEFORE a long training day or event, and you can avoid a lot of trouble down the road.
Sunburn is a close number two, and an absolute must to avoid. I keep a bottle of sunblock in the garage, right next to my bike helmet as a reminder. There is nothing worse than returning from a hard day in the saddle than battling the effects of a terrible sunburn that night and the next few days. The short term consequences of a sunburn are miserable, but pale in comparison to the longer term effects of overexposure to the sun. In addition to lathering up before I head out for a summer workout, I also bring small packet of sunscreen with me to reinforce what may be lost from sweating and the constant motion of training. Remember to cover every last inch of what may be exposed to the sun. There is nothing more annoying that having that one streak of burning red along your lower back, on the underside of your wrists, or behind your armpits the night after a 6 hour bike ride in the sun. I always try to choose bike paths with shady trees to when possible, but this can be tough to pull off in a state that is mostly desert, so sunscreen cannot be emphasized enough.
The final tip I have for training in the heat is to know when to call it quits. If for some reason you fall behind on hydration, or find yourself getting cooked in the sun after sunscreen has worn off, know when to call it quits. A shorter workout today is a much smaller price than entirely losing your workouts for the next several days. Regardless of who I am biking with, I always carry a cell phone. It’s not often that I find myself needing help, but there have been a few training rides that I have had to call Chip or my mom to pick me up, and I cannot imagine having to endure the remainder of those workouts without a safe trip home.
Summer training can be some of the best. Be smart about it to avoid and warm weather hazards, and you will enjoy it that much more. Lather on the sunscreen, bring plenty of cold drinks, or plan a path where you can stop and buy more cold drinks (don’t forget a few bucks or a credit card to pull this off), and get out there and have fun. Do it now before the weather turns too cold to be out there at all!