I hate conventional gyms.
You know the ones where they have all kind of machines under the Sun, all types of commercialized elliptical trainers and every Swiss ball that the latest pseudo-gurus happen to be pimping? You could easily find the most bizarre shiny equipment to help make your workout easier yet you’d have a hard time finding enough weights for a Boy Scout pre-teenager to do a set of squats. In a perfect world, and if it were for me, most machines would be melted into cast iron plates and barbells and the first thing someone walking into a gym would learn is how to perform a proper squat after having had a full body assessment. Of course, in the same perfect world, I would have an Olympic training center next to my house with weightlifting platforms and squat racks as far as the eye can see. The reality, however, is different, and I am for some time stuck training in a conventional gym. As much as I may hate it, I don’t complain, for I will lift anywhere and anyhow, all I need is enough weights and a barbell to get creative.
Seriously, what the hell?
Chen Xiexia, weighting a mere 105lbs, puts overhead in a split second almost double of what that guy above is squatting
and without the need of fancy equipment
Now, today’s topic is not about the shenanigans seen in present day gyms (or so called, fitness & health centers, smart rebranding huh?), although I could dedicate a future post to this very same topic for the entertainment of our readers. Rather, today’s topic is about training in a hot environment and how to avoid endangering your health in such conditions. It was today that I got the inspiration to cover this topic, as the air conditioner in my gym broke down, which would not be much of an issue if said gym actually had windows to be opened and the exit door didn’t face a swimming pool and a sauna. Today, my training session called for some intense workout composed of high repetition squats, presses, rows and Turkish get-ups. Unaware that the AC was not working, I entered the gym with my workout already planned and ready to bust some ass. It took 30 seconds upon entering the facilities for my T-shirt to be covered in sweat and, needless to say, the workout was hell although I did finish what I was set to do for the day.
Despite today’s eventuality, I am experienced in training under hot and humid conditions. I have trained in some hot and hellish places, including Olympic weightlifting in the open air of Dubai’s summer. Through the years, I have come up with some tips which I want to share with you and which will help you device your workout, as well as implementing it, at times when training in a hot environment may endanger your health.
1) Water and more water. You are losing water through sweating and it needs to be replaced. Sip some water after every set that you do, your goal is not to have a dry mouth.
2) Keep the workouts short. Aim to cut down your training to 45 minutes. If you find yourself having to sacrifice too many exercises to squeeze the workout in 45 mins, redesign your training so that the exercises not performed can be done in another workout (either later in the day or in another day). You can also cut down on your warm up sets, performing only one set, instead of several, before doing your work sets.
3) Keep the repetitions low. Anything over 12 repetitions will tax your cardiovascular system in a manner which is counterproductive to the environmental conditions. According to coach Bill Starr, a great strength coach by the way, reps should be lowered to as much as 2 or 3 per set for compound exercises such as squats, bench presses or deadlifts. Remember that your ability to take in air into your lungs as the reps progress is diminished in hot and humid conditions which will be a problem if you are doing high repetitions in exercises that require deep breathing (e.g squats).
4) Replenish electrolytes, namely sodium and potassium. Increase your sodium intake via sprinkling salt on food and eat potassium rich foods such as bananas and citrus fruits. Your requirement for sodium and potassium increases greatly when training in hot conditions and you may look into using supplements to add sodium and potassium. A gram of each after training is a good amount to shoot for.
5) Avoid caffeine and other stimulants as they increase heart rate and sweating. Caffeine is also a diuretic and is commonly found in coffee.
6) Avoid sugary drinks and use plain water. Plain water is absorbed faster than liquids containing sugar. Drink your water during training and leave any other drinks for after training.
7) Do not consume any food for 2 hours before training. Not only does training with food being digested in your stomach make for quite an uncomfortable workout but digestion of food increases body temperature, which will exacerbate your sweating.
8) Wear light and loose clothes so as to allow for sweat to evaporate and avoid overheating from the expelled energy as you exercise.
Follow these and always keep an eye on how you feel. If you feel dizzy, nauseous or disorientated during your workout, stop immediately. If the feeling of malaise does not subside shortly after stopping your workout and drinking water, go to the hospital.
All the best,