It's been a while, I know. Life's moving fast and hard lately, taking up precious time and brain power where frivolities of writing things that don't make money have taken a back seat. Still, there are times in the weekend where Henry doesn't have colic that needs to be soothed and the drains in the yard don't need to be dug up and I can enjoy life.
One of those times was last weekend where I attended a wedding reception for some friends who got married in Peru. For those of us unfortunate who couldn't make the trek south to attend, they threw another party for us here. The groom is one of my periodic readers and he ambushed me at the buffet line to tell me about how he wants to work out but the damn heat in Miami (where he was living) was so brutal that he just couldn't bring himself to keep doing it.
Not at my most thought-provoking, I came up with the pretty boiler-plate, hardcore answer. Since I don't approach training with a soft touch, I let him know that I'm not the guy to come to and say that you can't deal with the heat. He must have expected that and said something like, "So, I should stop being a pussy and suck it up?" My reply? YES!
While there is a lot of truth in such an exchange, on reflecting on it there's more to it than a sophomoric and tough-guy answer. Yes, dealing with heat is largely mental. Most of us aren't football players wearing north of a dozen pounds of gear in the searing heat. So, we don't really need to worry about dying from heat stroke like the news tries to scare us into worrying about every time the thermometer hits 90 degrees. So, a large part of working out in the heat is just accepting that we're going to be hot and sweaty. It's just another factor that we have to learn to overcome, just like we learned to accept the intensity of real strength training.
There are other mental elements in play however. Most of us deal better with things when we plan for them. Physically, there is a possibility that the heat might make us sick. Our mind knows this. If we plan for the rigor of working out, then we'll be a lot more adept to accepting them. Hydration is absolutely paramount to training at the top end of the mercury. That doesn't just mean that we have water handy when we're working out. You need to keep water in your system all of the time. Its true that you can be dehydrated without even knowing it. You'll figure this out when you go to work out and you just can't move like you did if you were adequately hydrated before even starting.
Notice that I said WATER and didn't mention any other form of beverages. People drink way too many other things than water and most of them don't help you stay hydrated any better than water does. Frankly, some of them are far worse. I make one exception to this rule: coconut water. This is a soft drink that I'm glad to see catching on. I've been a fan for three years. A little sip (and by sip, I mean around 4 ounces) here and there during some extended periods of time in the heat really helps deal with the electrolyte loss.
Another piece of the mind games of training that might have skipped a turn is what many of us decide to do in that heat. I hope that most of my readers would be just as repulsed as I am about running on a treadmill while watching TV. If that's not the case, and we crap out from doing such an activity then I'm hardly surprised. I recall hearing a theory put out by (I think) Pavel that doing sets of 20 reps is inferior to doing sets of 5 because the heavier weight (or more intense move) encourages more intense concentration. While I totally disagree with this rendition of using the exercise to focus the mind, I do agree that certain forms of training demand so much focus that the mind will not have the luxury of thinking about other things, including the heat. Let's face it: there are too many methods of exercise that are distracted by design and when additional stresses are introduced, failure is inevitable. Choose your exercises wisely.
Mankind has used heat to cook for millenia. Cooking is a good way to get rid of the things in food that shouldn't be there (attention raw foodies: this is a metaphor, so bear with me). It's funny that heat does the same thing with training too. You're going to find out what you should be doing and what you need to drop by working out in the heat. You're also going to discover if you're treating your body right by getting into the human pressure cooker known as your respective gym more often. As far as I'm concerned, there is an awful lot of good that can come out of training in the heat. It's form of stress that teaches a lot of good lessons, if we all can get around to suppressing our inner pussy and do it.