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Getting Used to the Heat

August 2, 2004 02:29 PM

by Jim Brown, Executive Editor, Sports Performance Journal (athletesperformance.com)

Unless steps are taken to allow the body to adapt to the hot and humid conditions of the summer months, expect a negative effect on performance and a higher than normal risk for heat-related problems.

Among the adaptations that can occur with a planned program of acclimatization are an increase in the volume of blood, an improved capacity to sweat, a faster onset of sweating, and a reduction of sodium content in sweat.

How quickly your body adapts to exercising in hot weather depends on how long and how hard you exercise. Some of the physical changes occur within the first week of training, but most adaptations occur in the second week (7-14 days).

Whether you become acclimatized to heat by training in a hot climate or by creating an artificially warm environment at home, there are some principles to follow. The first is to reduce the intensity and volume of training under these new conditions for the first few days. If you train twice a day, complete the high-intensity segment of your workout in the first session (in cooler air), saving a less intense but longer period for afternoon or evening.

Gradually phase in heat training with 30-60 minute sessions at low intensity. You don't have to train in the heat every day, but don't go more than two or three days without exposure to heat. One study showed that exercising in the heat every third day for 30 days had the same acclimatizing effect as exercising every day for ten days. The performance benefits of adapting the heat can last as long as 21 days once your return a cooler environment.

Stay informed on local weather conditions. In the near-tropical climate along the Gulf Coast, temperature is highest during the middle of the day, while humidity is higher early in the morning and later in the afternoon. Whatever you do, give your body time to adapt. Trying to do too much, too soon is a formula for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

[Sources: Sports Performance Journal, Gatorade Sports Science Exchange, The Physician & Sportsmedicine, Georgia Tech Sports Medicine & Performance Newsletter]

© 2004 HMS Publishing, Inc.
Jim Brown will be contributing new content to this site on a monthly basis. If you have a question for Dr. Brown please feel free to email him at




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