Being a fighter means training all year long. Grueling workouts, exhaustive training sessions, and painful hours in the gym are all part of the rigorous routine required to be the best.
It´s getting hot in here
Many fighters, however, don’t take the weather into account as they prepare their routines. They take for granted the cool temperatures of spring and fall. We can endure and dress warmly for the cold winter temperatures when training heats the body naturally. But what about summer? What about those few challenging months each year where the temperature outside can reach close to extreme levels? Let’s look a little closer at the dangers of working out in the extreme heat conditions and examine some ways we can modify the training techniques to reduce that danger and stay healthy all year.
The problem of overheating
Your body can overheat very quickly in hot weather conditions. There are three levels of heat related conditions that you and your trainer should be aware of when the temps rise. First is heat fatigue. Heat fatigue is noted by cramping and is usually the first indication of illness. How many times have we witnessed athletes cramping in their legs toward the end of long futbol games? They usually require IV fluids to rehydrate their system with nutrients to recover. The next level of illness is heat exhaustion where the symptoms become increasingly more severe. Here the athlete may become weak and have to lie down, their skin may become pale and clammy with lots of sweating, and they may become dizzy and experience vomiting. But it gets worse with heat stroke. With heat stroke, the body becomes so overheated, athletes have been known to collapse and die. A person suffering from heat stroke will turn red and will stop sweating. Their breathing and heart rate will increase significantly and they will usually pass out.
Dehydration is another risk for athletes training during the summer months, whether working out indoors or outdoors. It is vital to drink plenty of fluids to replace the nutrients lost through sweat. You can lose as much as 3 quarts of sweat in as little as 20 minutes of intense workout in hot weather. But water by itself is not the only answer. Your body loses lots of minerals (electrolytes) and nutrients when you sweat. It is vital to replace those nutrients so you can recover fully and quickly. But if you gulp down a bottle of water after you workout, you are literally washing away the nutrients in your body through urination. No doubt products like Gatorade have their appeal by replacing electrolytes but they also contain sugar to increase their flavor appeal as well as caffeine. Sugar slows down the absorption of the minerals in our system and caffeine has been known to promote water loss. In addition to water, look to replace the minerals through vitamin tablets, especially vitamins B and C. Also look for protein shakes that usually contain a well-balanced proportion of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Shorten your cardio
A recent study of cyclists suggests that by training in the heat, your body can become acclimated over time and you can actually achieve more positive results than those who don’t train in the heat. Other researchers suggest that you put so much additional wear and tear on your body that any additional benefits would not be worth the long term effects on your body. But if you want or must train in the heat, there are ways you can change up your training regimen during the summer months to combat the effects of the heat. The most simple is to train in the early morning and late evening hours when the temperatures are at their coolest. If you run during your training, shorten the duration to about 20 minutes. For weight lifting routines, focus more on core and large muscle groups to shorten the length of your workouts and always put the most taxing sets at the beginning of your routine when you have the most energy. You can also shorten, if not eliminate, warming up in hot weather. Finally, try to keep your overall strength training routine down to about an hour during periods of extreme heat conditions.
Whether you are training for general fitness or training for a prize fight, heat is another enemy you face. But by taking proper, and sometimes common sense, precautions to your training routine, you can train safely and effectively in hot conditions. Know what your body is telling you and make sure you listen to it. If you experience any symptoms of the heat related illnesses we discussed, stop your workout and find a cool shelter and replace those vitamins and minerals your body is craving. And finally, put aside the competitiveness and shorten up those workouts with fewer reps and fewer routines. Especially in fighting, take care of your body and it will take care of you.