Training in the Heat of Summer!

Summer is here (almost)!  With extreme temperatures and humidity, it is important to take a minute and recognize what this means to the body during training.

 

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Extreme temperatures, hot or cold, have absolute influences on the body, especially during training of elevated intensity levels. "During exercise in the heat, skin competes with the active muscles for more of the limited cardiac output. A well-orchestrated series of cardiovascular adjustments takes place to shunt blood away from nonessential regions to the skin to aid in heat dissipation" (Wilmore, Costill, & Kenney, 2008, p. 263).

The physiology behind body temperature regulation is quite extensive. The extreme temperatures of summer in combination with your training will challenge the body's thermoregulation (body temperature regulation). There is great significance in understanding the big picture.  The body uses several mechanisms to cool: conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation. It is not critical to know the physiology behind each of these, but appreciating how the surrounding environment affects each sheds some light on just how hard the body works during elevated temperatures and how critically important it is to properly hydrate.

Conduction is simply object-to-object touching.  Convection is done with gas or liquid movement.  Radiation is heat given off seen as infrared rays.  Evaporation cools by converting liquid to vapor. Evaporation is the primary means of cooling during exercise. As the surrounding temperature reaches or exceeds that of the skin temperature evaporation is the only mechanism to provide cooling. This is also where humidity falls into play. Usually extreme heat links high humidity. This can hamper the effects of evaporation due to the water vapor pressure in the air. The sweat must evaporate while on the skin to expend body heat. Dripping or wiping sweat away is a waste of cooling product. With high humidity, the air already holds a substantial amount of water molecules making it more resistant to accept further vapor. During these environmental factors, the body is at greater risk of heat related illness and or dehydration.

According to Wilmore, Costill, and Kenny (2008), "Exercise in the heat becomes limited when heart rate approaches maximum, especially in untrained or non-heat-acclimated exercisers"(p.261).  Several heat related disorders are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (extremely life threatening). Any signs such as nausea, chills, headache, fatigue, large muscles cramps and excessive thirst are all institutes the possibility of these and should not be taken lightly. Any signs should cease all training and seek proper care.   

Proper hydration is not just at training times, it is an all day event.  Across the fitness industry, the term hydrate is very prevalent. Many people set out for hours before the feeling of being thirsty transpires. Though it may seem as simple as squeezing a water bottle to the mouth, many neglect to do so until it is too late.

What happens when a person fails to maintain a steady and appropriate quantity of water? The result is inception of the bodily condition known as dehydration. Many bodily functions rely on maintaining proper hydration, the water balance in the body. Dehydration has direct effect on many of these functions. Dehydration can progress, to drying out body tissues and the cells. Dehydration also often goes together with deficiency of electrolytes, in particular sodium and potassium.

The most susceptible cells to dehydration are the brain cells. Mental confusion is another one of the most common signs of severe dehydration. Dehydration is a condition that needs to be monitored and avoided by all means necessary. Water and electrolytes are necessary to counter this condition. When electrolytes concentration decreases, water does not move as quickly from the reservoir inside of the cells and into the blood.

The fluid compartments of the body, such as the cells, space around the cells and blood must not vary too much in order to function efficiently. Proper water levels help transport necessary the nutrients and waste products in and out of cells. The importance of the balance of these two components within the body is necessary for optimal performance. Hydration of the body is maintaining a proper volume of fluid and a correct balance of water and electrolytes. Water plus a sports drink is most favorable for this goal, however, sports drinks must be limited to right before, during, and/or directly after training sessions. Optimal performance of the body can be obtained by simply providing the body with the appropriate amount of water. Countering known conditions causing dehydration results in an improved effect of bodily functions and performance. Many life supporting functions are directly affected by proper hydration. H2O is the way to go. Even for the hardest Spartan, water truly is, the fountain of life.

"Lean into it!"

Travis

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