• Coach Thompson

Heat Acclimatization: Get Outside

In the last Blog post, I wrote about the importance of hydration in keeping your athletes safe. Another factor in keeping your athlete safe, in warm weather, is heat acclimatization.

What is Heat Acclimatization?

Loosely defined, acclimatization is a series of complex series of changes/adaptations that gradually occur - over time - in response to heat stress. These adaptations are beneficial to exercise in the heat and permit the body to better cope with heat stress.

Even fit, active athletes can struggle in warm conditions until their bodies make the needed adaptations to hot weather.

What Happens With Acclimatization?

You Become A Better Sweater

After acclimatizing to exercise in the heat we begin to sweat earlier, we sweat more and at a faster rate, our sweat glands fatigue less and the body better distributes sweat. There’s also less sodium content in the sweat, which helps with water retention and maintaining fluid levels to prevent dehydration. The result of better sweating is better cooling, meaning skin and core temperatures stay within reason and early fatigue, hyperthermia and heat illness are less likely. Fluid intake is essential to maintain these functions

Cardiovascular Function Improves

Benefits include a decrease in heart rate, increase in plasma volume and improved blood flow. With more plasma, there’s more blood available to go to the skin’s surface for heat dissipation and to the working muscles. Most important, adaptations put less stress on the heart, resulting in a decrease in heart rate at any given intensity and increase in stroke volume (amount of blood pumped out of the heart chamber).

Exercise Performance Increases

The non-acclimatized athlete will run slower and fatigue faster in heat; but, as acclimatization takes place, these negative effects will fade and running capacity and performance will increase due to improved thermal comfort and lower perceived exertion.

How to Acclimatize?

Hydrate, Get Outside to play/exercise/train and use common sense. Each athlete is different, but generally it takes about 7-10 days of consistently exercising/working out/training in the heat to acclimatize. Gradually ease into heat training by keeping a low intensity at first. As adaptations occur, intensity and volume can increase. Certain adaptations occur quicker than others. Decreased heart rate can occur in as little as five days, while changes in sweating response could take weeks.

With a few precautions, your athlete should be able to function well in the heat of summer.


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