From Ice Cube to Fireball: Strategies for Heat Acclimation

Spring sprung and the weather’s seemingly fast-forwarded directly to summer. One morning I was running in tights and arm sleeves, the next I got up before dawn to avoid overheating. Forecasters across the country are scratching their heads. Meanwhile, I’m desperately looking to shed that extra wintertime insulation to better deal with the sudden warmth.

I’m not sure about you, but it takes my body a stretch to get used to seasonal fluctuations in temperatures. It’s a gradual process, not a BASE jump. But this year it feels as though someone plucked me from the freezer and stuck me directly into the microwave absent of a thaw cycle to ease the transition.

OK, I’m being a bit ungrateful to the weather gods because I typically prefer the heat to the cold. Just not all at once, almighty’s, if you please.

Thankfully I’ve got some practical experience that can help accelerate the process of transforming oneself from a full-coated husky into a lean whippet. Using a couple straightforward training hacks can help speed things along.

Of course, the best way to get used to the heat is by exposing yourself to the heat. Simply stated, training in the heat improves your performance in the heat. It’s not a startling insight, just something we need to remind ourselves now and then. Many of us typically workout in the morning, when its cooler outside. To better heat adaptation, shift training sessions to midday or later in the afternoon when temperatures are warmer. Athletes can be creatures of habit, and altering those routines starts with the realization of our patterned thought and then making appropriate modifications.

Beyond this obvious change, there are more accelerated ways to acclimatize. These involve exposing the body to hotter temperatures during controlled bouts of strenuous activity. For instance, in preparing for the Badwater Ultramarathon—a 135-mile continuous footrace across Death Valley in the shoe-melting heat of summer—I ran during the daytime while swaddled in a thick puffer ski parka. Sure, I got some odd looks, but the practice prepared my body for running in the hottest place on earth.

I also went into the sauna at the gym and did sets of pushups and sit-ups. Miserable? Yes. Beneficial? Immeasurably so. The physiological adaptations to heat include improved sweating, better blood flow, reduced cardiovascular strain, improved fluid balance and reduced electrolyte loss in sweat. In my experience, exercising in a sauna accelerates all of these.

While my body got more efficient at reducing electrolytes loss in sweat, I still lost plenty of electrolytes even in this training adapted state. That’s why I used full-spectrum Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes to replace losses. They are rapidly assimilated and easy on the stomach. During extreme races, like the Badwater Ultramarathon or Atacama Crossing in South America, I opt for Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes Extreme, which are next-level electrolyte replacement.

My go to pre-exercise supplement of choice is Hammer Nutrition Fully Charged. The ingredients in Fully Charged—like green tea, beet root juice powder and tart cherry extract—have been shown to increase cardiovascular capacity, prevent lactic acid build-up, and raise energy levels. I’ve found that Fully Charged helps me workout longer and harder in hot conditions.

Once you’ve suitably altered your body to better contend with the heat, there are specific strategies you can use to improve your performance in hot temperatures. Checkout my previous article on Dealing with the Heat for insights and ideas on how to combat the heat when exercising and competing in hot temperatures.

The last suggestion I’ll offer for accelerating your body’s adaptation to the heat has nearly cost me my marriage. Rarely can my wife and I agree on the appropriate cabin temperature inside our car, but when I close all the windows and crank up the thermostat to high, she has, on more than one occasion, threatened to shove me out the door. Driving around in the sweltering summer heat in a car that feels more like the interior of oven is not her idea of fun. And when I handed her a bottle of Endurolytes and advised, “Here, take some of these,” the click of the doors unlocking was the next sound I heard…

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Dean Karnazes is an ultramarathoner and Hammer Nutrition Athlete. He has raced and competed across the globe and once ran 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days. His most recent book is A Runner’s High.

Hammer Deutschland 14 June, 2023
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