After the June heatwave we’ve all been left grasping for the handheld fans, embracing the cold shower and munching on ice creams. But where does that leave those of us who want to stay fit and workout in this hot, hot summer sun? In fact, are there even some positives to working out in the Heat?
The debate of hot versus cold workouts has been raging on and off for a few years especially with the explosion of hot yoga studios spawning from the infamous Bikram workout and its cult following. Whilst some claim it is insanely dangerous putting the body under extreme strain when it is ill prepared, others cite the euphoric feeling of overcoming mental adversity. In fact, whilst this might sound bizarre, entering into the zone and having to fight giving up has been proven to give athletes that mental edge to push that little bit harder, and win those medals; transpose that into the average exercisers everyday workout and it can give you the tenacity to keep turning up when you’d rather stay in bed. The mental headset when it comes to exercising is such a powerful tool and that feeling of beating the heat can get endorphins flying leaving you with that addictive exercise euphoria.
Sustained endurance training in the heat can also help you perform better when it cools back down. In a 2010 study at Oregon University 20 cyclists were put through ten days of moderate workouts … one group at 55 degrees and the other at brutal 104 degrees. After ten days of the same training protocol all riders were grouped back together and tested at 55 degrees. The difference between the two groups was dramatic with the heat trained cyclists riding 6% faster in the cooler temperature, with 5% more aerobic power (measured as Vo2max), 5% more power output at lactate threshold, and about 9.1% more cardio output.
Conversely, the heat can cause muscles to overstretch leading to an increased risk of injury and strain as the warmth tricks us into thinking we are Olympic gymnasts rather than mildly bendy. It can also put extra strain on the heart and leave many feeling severely dehydrated and nauseous. There really is a thin line to tread and it is all about balance and what suits the individual. In essence, the key as with any exercise is to listen to the body and respond accordingly. The beauty of the human body is it’s individuality and its uniqueness and that means one size just does not fit all and what works for one simply might not for another. So soak up the seasonal sunshine but do it in your own way, and if you need that air conditioned gym, then do it, and have the shades and the sunscreen prepped for later!
Personally, I prefer to work out in the cool so anyone visiting my bespoke Cheltenham studio will have the perks of an air conditioned environment… but don’t you worry, it won’t make the workout any easier!