Category: Training

7 Tips To Stay Cool When Exercising in the Heat

Woman Exercising in the Heat

It’s been scorchio in the UK this week! Have you been making the most of the good weather? Or is exercising in the heat too much for you to deal with? (And sunbathing with an ice cream too tempting.)

I have to admit to having a bit of a love-hate relationship with the heat. Sun is great. Warmth is lovely. But as the thermometer starts to rise, I begin to wilt. Much above twenty degrees (centigrade, for you non-Brits) and I’m scurrying for a patch of shade. Ironically, my better half is something of a sun lover. Which makes for a heated debate about optimum climbing conditions when we climb in hotter parts of the world.

Although exercising in the heat can have benefits, particularly if you’ve got a race in a hot country coming up, it also has dangers. Exercising raises your body temperature and, if you’re already hot from being in the sun, this could push it to dangerously high levels. Dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all things to watch out for.

Here are some tips for staying safe when exercising in the heat.

Exercise Early In the Morning

You can beat the heat by exercising first thing in the morning. Try and juggle your schedule so you can get out early, or get up an hour earlier in the morning to take advantage of the coolest part of the day.

If you’re really not a morning person then exercising late at night is another option. It’ll still be warm and muggy, but you won’t have the sun blazing down on you.

Keep Hydrated

Dehydrating is one of the main risks when exercising in the heat. Although you may want to carry water or an electrolyte solution when training, it’s just as important to make sure you’re hydrated before you start. This can be tricky if you’re exercising first thing in the morning, as you’ll dehydrate overnight. (Unless you’re one of those crazy people who doesn’t sleep.)

If you’re exercising in the evening, check the colour of your pee throughout the day. Pale yellow is good, dark yellow or brown means you need to drink more. Checking your pee is a good way of making sure you’re not drinking more than you need to.

Make Sure You’re Replacing Sodium

When you sweat, you’re not just sweating out water but also sodium. Our bodies need sodium to help keep a proper balance of water and for nerve and muscle function. You’re likely to get most of the sodium you require from your food, but your body may crave a little extra salt during hot weather.

An electrolyte solution can help rebalance your sodium levels after a hard workout (as opposed to energy drinks which tend to be full of sugar). Don’t overdo the electrolytes though as you could end up with too much sodium in your body.

Slap On the Sunscreen

As you’ll be sweating off sunscreen, you may want to opt for a higher factor sunscreen when exercising. You want something that’s water resistant, at least SPF 30 and protects from both UVA and UVB rays. If you’re doing a long run, hike or bike ride, you’ll probably need to reapply sunscreen part way through.

Take It Easy When Exercising In the Heat

If you’re used to training in cooler temperatures the heat can feel debilitating at first. You may feel slow and sluggish and be tempted to push harder as a result. But listen to your body. If it’s telling you to slow down, then slow down. You can start increasing the length and duration of your workout when your body begins to acclimatise to the heat.

Wear Loose, Light-Coloured Clothing

Light-coloured clothing will help reflect the heat and loose clothing allows air to reach your skin and cool you down. Save the dark, tight clothing for winter.

Go indoors

Now, we all know I’m a fan of the outdoors. The whole point of this blog is to promote and encourage you all to get outdoors! But, even I have to admit that sometimes gyms have their place. Not that being in a sweaty gym is the most pleasant experience. But at least most of them have air conditioning. So if the mercury in the thermometer continues to rise, going to the gym may be a safer option than exercising in the heat.

How to Keep Fit During the Festive Season

sleeping-city-night

Run at night to see a different side to the city

It’s the middle of December. Christmas is just a few weeks away and the festive parties, catch-ups and mince pies are starting to stack up. It’s dark in the mornings, dark in the evenings and generally a bit cold and wet. All in all, not much motivation to get out and train.

Many people (including me) can get a bit relaxed about keeping fit at this time of year. (For relaxed, read lazy.) This is then followed by guilt-laden New Year’s resolutions to be better boys and girls. This year, why not make a resolution before Christmas instead? Sure, it needs a little willpower to implement, but there is a way to avoid the permanent hangover that often marks the festive period.

Let’s take it as read that we’re all busy people with packed social diaries, busy jobs and Christmas shopping still to do. (If you’re still looking for pressies, you may be interested in my Christmas gift guide. Presents for yourself count too you know.) So how on earth do you fit in any exercise, let alone a decent training session, around this?

Take it easy, but don’t stop

I know, I know. I said we were going to talk about keeping fit. But realistically, December is a time for maintaining your fitness levels, not pushing harder. Your poor body goes through a lot at this time of year: late nights, early mornings, a richer-than-usual diet and possibly more alcohol than it’s used to. Give yourself a break and don’t go pushing for a PB just yet.

Then there’s the flip side. I don’t know about anyone else, but as soon as I stop rushing around and rest my body decides it’s time to get ill. The solution? Gently ease your body into the Christmas hols, rather than slamming on the breaks. A bit of exercise can help you relax as well as allowing yourself some time away from the hot, germ-ridden office or pub.

Get out during your lunch break

It’s dark when you go to work and dark when you leave. At this time of year, we really struggle to get any sunshine on our skin, so make the most of any opportunity to get out. Even if you never take a lunch break at any other time of year, get yourself out for at least half an hour a day over the next few weeks.

If you can fit in a quick run, that’s your exercise sorted. But even if you don’t have time for a run (or changing facilities at work) a half-hour walk will give your body a break from the desk and your mind a break from work. You’ll feel better for it and probably have a more productive afternoon as a result.

Get the family involved

What’s the one day of the year EVERYONE gets out exercising? The day it snows! Kids who were previously glued to their Xbox or iPad are suddenly clamouring to go sledging or build snowmen. Everyone runs around like crazy people and you all return home tired and happy.

In Britain at least, there is no guarantee of snow. But that’s no reason not to start a family tradition of getting out and active. For many years, when I was at my parents for Christmas, we had a family tradition of going for a run on Christmas morning. (Yes, we are slightly strange like that.) But it was kind of nice to get some exercise in before the wine and food and feel like we’d earned it.

Run / walk / cycle to work

When time is short, one way to fit in a training session is to incorporate it into your commute. It may be dark when you leave the house, but if you’re lucky you’ll get a beautiful sunrise on your way in – something you may not have noticed if you’d taken the car or train to work.

This is another one where you get to go to the post-work party guilt-free – just make sure you’ve packed your shower kit and clothes to change into.

Run back from the Christmas party

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably one of the few who hasn’t totally given up on exercise. So you may not think this next idea too crazy to contemplate. But it is a way to fit both socialising and training into your busy schedule and is particularly useful if you live in a city. Go to the pub, or Christmas party, but rather than getting the bus, train or taxi home, why not run back?

Now, I’m not recommending you go all out on the booze front and spend your ‘run’ stumbling into lamp posts and rubbish bins. But if you know you have to run home you’ll be more likely to go easy on the drinks, which your head will thank you for the next day. Just pack up your trainers, running kit and a headtorch; change in the pub toilets and trot out into the streets. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds cities most beautiful at night.

So there you go. Make a pre-New Year resolution to keep fit during this festive season, then get out there and do it. Merry mince pies everyone.

How To Make Yourself Train (Even When You Don’t Want To)

Woman training in the gym

Training feeling tough? It’s all mind over matter…


Training. Some people love it, some people hate it. Some people love it retrospectively. (I definitely fall into this camp – generally when relaxing with a post-session cup of tea.) But we all have times when we struggle to work up the motivation to go out, or to try as hard as we should during a session.

I was at the climbing wall the other day and noticed a young girl training on the overhanging circuit board. Her Dad was timing her: six minutes on, six minutes off. In the time I was there I saw her do five sets. She was obviously finding it tough. By the last circuit she was crying in pain. But she still stuck on for her six minutes.

This taught me two things. Firstly, many of us (myself included) don’t often put everything we have into our training. Secondly, the reason for this is because it’s hard. You make the biggest gains in training when you really push yourself – push beyond what you think your body you can do – but it IS painful. And psyching up for that sort of training, when you know it’s going to hurt, is pretty mentally demanding.

We may not all be training to the same level as that girl. But we all have times when we don’t feel like training. If you’re anything like me, it’s pretty easy to come up with at least a dozen ‘valid’ reasons why not to head out for a five mile run on a cold, rainy, dark winter night.

But what really separates me (and perhaps you) and the girl at the wall is discipline. It’s all very well beating yourself up about not training but that’s not making up for the fact that you haven’t done it. So if you’re struggling for motivation this winter, try out these tips to encourage you to get out and train.

Remove other alternatives

Commuting is a great one for this. One of the reasons I get up to run in the morning, even when I want to stay curled up in bed, is because I leave my clothes, hairbrush and makeup in work. Which means I can’t get ready at home, even if I wanted to. If you don’t have a suitable commute, an alternative option is to get a partner or friend to drop you off a set distance from home and literally leave you stranded. There’s only one way back.

Another tried and tested technique is to arrange to meet a friend and do your workout together. That way both of you’d feel so hideously guilty about letting the other one down if you cancel, that you’ll put the excuses to bed and turn up to train. Or if it’s sessions in the gym you avoid, then ask someone nicely to take you in their car. If they’ve given up their time to help you out, the least you can do is train hard right?

Bribery

A technique perfected by athletes, bankers and the mafia for years. Why does bribery work? Because it gives you a reward. And who doesn’t like a reward! Just to be clear, this is about self-bribery – no brown paper envelopes here. Just figure out what works for you.

Here are some examples:

  • I can have that piece of chocolate cake if I go for that five mile run.
  • A fifty mile bike ride earns me the right to watch an entire season of The Wire (back to back).
  • If I – gasp – get to the top of this hill – gasp – I can rest – gasp – for five minutes.

This works best if you get someone else to bribe you, otherwise you may just be soft and give in and give yourself the treat even if you skip training. (Not that I’d ever do this of course. Ahem.) But having to watch your partner tucking into their single portion of chocolate pudding is a pretty good reminder of what you should have been doing earlier that day.

Another good one is the charity challenge. Here people really are bribing you REAL money to achieve your goal. And if you don’t train you’re not just letting yourself down, but all those cute little endangered pandas! Bribery AND guilt: a winning combination.

Remind yourself of the goal

The key with this is visualisation. Don’t just tell yourself, “I’m doing this because I’ve booked on a half-marathon in three weeks”. That’s just words. You need to imagine you’re approaching the finishing line. The crowds are roaring you on and you can taste the saltiness of sweat on your lips. You have to experience the elation of knowing you will complete the race. Then try and hold on to that feeling long enough to get out the door and into the first few miles of your run.

Distract yourself

I normally have an attention span as long as Dory the fish, but when it comes to long runs the reverse happens. By the second hour all I can think about is my aching legs, my aching hips, the twinge in my calf, the rubbing on my back… You get the idea. This is where distraction techniques come in. Even the best multi-tasker can only focus on a few things at a time. So if you can persuade your mind to focus on something else, you’ll find you forget about the aches and pains of training.

This is a very personal thing: what works for one person won’t for another. Some people find focusing on the movement and pace of their training helps, for other people listening to an up-beat sound track keeps them going. For longer sessions, why not try listening to audiobooks or podcasts – especially inspirational ones such as the Tough Girl podcast. If you’re struggling for ideas, here are a few more suggestions.

Have a schedule

Schedules are a personal thing. For the majority of people a structured training plan both optimises your training time and can be a helpful anti-avoidance tool. Your schedule says you swim Tuesday, you swim Tuesday. Schedule says hop like a frog Thursday? You get the picture. It removes the decision-making process around what to do. Fewer decisions equals more action. Honest – Tim Ferriss says so.

But there are some people schedules don’t work so well for, me included. Life is pretty hectic at the moment, so rather than sticking to a strict schedule, I have target sessions for the week and fit them in around my other commitments. This is more flexible, but it’s also easier to deviate from, so you need extra willpower.

When is it OK not to train?

Taking into account all of the above, there are times when not training is the best option. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, remember – these times are few and far between. SO LACE YOUR TRAINERS BACK UP AND GET OUT THERE NOW.

Seriously, please don’t train if any of the following apply:

  • You’re injured. This may stop you from doing your chosen activity, but don’t forget about the benefits of cross training!
  • You’re ill. By this I mean properly ill, not just hungover. It’s sometimes a fine line to judge, but generally if you feel that training will make your illness worse and your recovery shorter, it’s probably best to skip it and focus on getting better.
  • Your house is going to burn down if you do. Not literally, obviously. (Or at least, I hope not. You did check the iron was off before leaving this morning, right?) But realistically there are always times when something important and urgent has to take priority. Your kid being sent home sick from school or your boss telling you you’re fired unless you get that paper on his desk tomorrow morning. Just make sure they are genuinely urgent and are the exception and not the rule. The latest episode of the Great British Bake Off does not count (in this context) as either important or urgent.

The key to deciding when not to train is being honest with yourself around your decisions. Really honest. Is that sniffle really the start of a cold, or is it just a GBBO-withdrawal symptom? Only you can decide, but remember this. Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body will. Happy training!