You want to feel slightly too warm rather than too cold when exercising. Our muscles work best in a slightly cooler setting though since the body warms itself when training. 60°-75°F (15-24°C) is a sensible temperature for lifting and intervals. For sustained exercise such as walking at least 15 minutes, you may do better with an even cooler setting. Consider a range of 45°-60°F (7-15°C).
The brain anticipates changes in body temperature well. It will adjust your intensity accordingly, so you can train beyond these ranges but at the expense of performance and therefore results. The body will improve with experience though, with as little as a week of training in an environment allowing adaptations.
Overweight trainees will have a harder time adjusting and may need to plan for optimal conditions at first. We cannot always choose our environments though. In these cases, use these precautions.
Cold muscles fatigue quickly, but with the right precautions our bodies can tolerate incredibly cold conditions.
- Wear multiple layers of clothing, with the option to take them off as your body heats up.
Clothing made from synthetic fibers, such as nylon and polyesters, resist heat removal and suit cold weather the best.
Reducing the risk of less blood flow to the head is the most vital concern. If the head has no protection from the cold, heat loss can occur rapidly. Any sort of headgear, such as a cap, will help.
It works better to insulate just the torso and head as opposed to the limbs. This allows your body’s natural cooling mechanisms to remain. Gloves and boots may cause the body to perceive the conditions as much warmer and further reduce performance, but ignore this advice in subzero temperatures and cover as much skin as possible.
- A longer warm-up before can help.
Increase the duration of the warm-up to 5-10 minutes instead of 3-5.
Heat produces competition for blood between the muscles and the skin. Humidity also restricts the body’s ability to lose heat through sweating. Allowing for sweating through the skin best allows us to deal with hot conditions.
- Wear minimal clothing.
Overdressing can lead to too much sweat. Evaporation of sweat on the surface of the skin ranks as the most important way to lose heat as it grows warmer. Expose as much skin to the air as possible.
- Wear light-colored clothing made from open-weave natural fibers.
These include wool and cotton that do not hold much moisture.
- Consider a brief cool-down.
Inactivity after heavy sweating invites fast cooling. This creates an internal plummet in temperature that can cause dizziness, fainting, and other issues. Include a cool-down that matches the warm-up in length.
- Relax in a cool environment or take a cold shower prior to longer exercise.
This will improve performance.
- Avoid cramps.
Cramps during the heat come from dehydration and the loss of minerals from sweat.
Take the Right Steps for Exercising in the Heat and Cold
Use common sense and take these steps during heat and cold. Exercise in the best conditions when possible though. This will allow the most improvement.