If you are a fit individual who likes to work out, you are probably wondering right now, should I work out in the heat? A heatwave is now visiting wide swathes of the Northern hemisphere – certainly here in the UK. The hot weather will discourage a lot of people from exercising, while others will be unsure if it is okay to workout in the heat, and how to exercise in the heat most effectively and – obviously – without suffering any dire consequences to your health.
A lot of people will actually benefit from hot weather workouts but you have to put more thought into it than in moderate or even cold weather – after all, there is loads of great winter running gear but very little designed for properly high temperatures of the type we're experiencing now. We collected the few we'd recommend for hot weather: best summer running gear.
Before you head out for a run or other outdoor workout in the sweltering sun, make sure you read the following tips and tricks.
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Benefits of workout in the heat
It might come as surprise but as long as you careful, there are some benefits of hot weather workouts. For example, you'll burn more calories in the heat as your body needs to work harder to keep the temperature down. It's similar to cold weather workouts but in that case, your body works hard to warm you up.
Exercising in the heat can also help with acclimatisation. It's a bit like resistance training: if you workout in the heat, milder temperature workouts will feel less demanding.
Similarly, toasty workouts can also increase tolerance levels: by venturing further out of your comfort zone and doing workouts in the heat, you'll naturally push the boundaries in which your body tolerates workouts. That could come in handy when the temperature drops – you'll smash those mild temperature workouts.
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Things you should do to maximise athletic performance in the heat
It probably goes without saying but you'll need to pay extra attention to hydration. This means drinking enough liquids before, during and after the workout, especially if you tend to sweat profusely in the heat. Dehydration can increase heart rate which can be detrimental to health in the long run.
"For shorter workouts, bring along a bottle of 16 ounces water with 120 to 180mg sodium and sip every 10 minutes to help replace important salts that are lost when you sweat, which you tend to do a lot of when working out in the heat", says Catherine McLaughlin, PT and Marketing Manager for BLK BOX (opens in new tab).
You should consider pre-cooling yourself before you start your workouts. According to a research paper from 2013 (opens in new tab) published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, "Body cooling has shown clear performance benefits. Arngrïmsson et al. demonstrated an increase in running performance during a 5-km run after precooling with a cooling vest in a heated chamber (32°C, 50% relative humidity)."
With hydration out of the way, it's time to look at some gear options. Whether you're a runner or a HIIT workout person, it's important to choose clothing and footwear option that are well-ventilated and ideally, they would also have sweat-wicking properties.
"Clothing is our first line of defence against the sun’s harmful (UV) rays and protects us by absorbing or blocking much of this radiation", says Catherine, "It’s best to wear clothes made from lightweight fabric and cotton blends to keep you cool in the heat. The more skin you cover, the better – long leggings offer more protection than shorts and a long-sleeved, collared top covers more skin than a t-shirt."
For inspiration, check out T3's best running shoes, best workout shoes, best running tops and best running shorts guides.
Temperature might be the main concern for most people but high humidity affects us equally as badly as high temperatures, maybe even more. When humidity levels are high, breathing becomes difficult which makes cooling the body very difficult. Make sure you check the weather forecast before you head outside.
Speaking of checking the weather in advance: we'd recommended planning ahead when exercising in the heat. This goes for timing the workout but also supplementation and hydration too.
And finally, you might also want to consider working out indoors, especially when the sun's out. Closing the curtains and turning the fan or portable air con unit on might make workouts more bearable than trying to perform a gruelling calisthenics workout in the park.
Things to do when exercising in the heat
Firstly, wear a hat, especially if you are not overly blessed with thick hair. Secondly, thirdly and fourthly, wear sun block. And, obviously, wear light workout clothing. Hopefully you don't need to be told not to wear a heavy tracksuit and winter under layer when it's 30ºC/90ºF but you can never be too careful these days.
Things to avoid when exercising in the heat
Hot weather workouts are not all peaches and cream, however, and there are a couple of things you should avoid doing when planning workouts in the heat.
Avoid going outside between 12-3pm as that's when the sun is at its strongest. It not only makes one more uncomfortable but by going outside around midday, you also risk heatstroke and even stuff like skin cancer. There is no point in risking that.
Instead, try doing workouts early in the morning; that's the best time to exercise to lose weight anyway, according to SCIENCE.
You might want to focus on maintenance and not progression when the weather's hot. No need to try and beat your deadlift PR when you can't breath as it is. The same goes for running and cycling too. Since your body uses more energy to keep you cool, the conditions are less than ideal for trying to achieve big milestones in your training. It's best to be mindful about your training and health.