Hot Weather Workout? Try a Hot Bath Beforehand

One of the most effective ways to cope with exercising in extreme heat may be to soak in long, hot baths in the days beforehand.

Comments: 44

  1. This may be a mildly intriguing finding that could spur more research. However, I think the column title is misleading: a "study" that involves only 9 people (recreational runners) who ran 5K on treadmill for only 4 days warrants a NY Times headline recommending this strategy as if there were compelling scientific evidence.

  2. If you do enough work with statistics, you come to the horrible truth that numbers (of participants) really only matters in respect to the voodoo math used. Statistics can tell you anything you wish to know if you "tweak" it right.

    Or put another way, it (statistics qua science) is as much if not more about probability than anything.

    Or yet another view, one to which most people are oblivious: "causality" is not tantamount to "universally true," which is what most people take causality to mean. It does not, and in fact, such absolutism is technically impossible. E.g., "smoking causes cancer." All smoking? Obviously not. Smoking may have "caused" that dude's death, but it cannot be said to be a universal killer. Of course, one can use statistics to "prove" it is so, but...

    Hence, for 9 participants, all had improvements "after four days of acclimation." That's 100-percent (presuming the article got it right), and you can't get better than that...

    unless you are in education and decide that a 5.0 GPA is possible, so there's your 110-percent writ large.

    (Yes, humanity is doomed. Sigh.)

  3. Don't be so serious. This isn't page one Times. It's in a subsection of a subsection, probably read only by exercise fiends. Small studies happen all the time and I find them very interesting.

  4. I've been exercising outdoors in Florida for many years and considered myself acclimatized, however, i still bonked on a trikke ride some time ago. I knew I was in difficulty with a queasy feeling and onset of weakness.
    I'm going to take advice from the article, and hope it helps. I rode a short distance on a bicycle to do weight training the other day during high heat and humidity, needless to say, my training routines were dismal, had to use lighter weight, fewer reps.
    Best advice is to know your limitations, most importantly leave your ego at home when the weather demands it.

  5. What makes much more sense is to adjust the temperature of one's house. Most people in most climates keep their houses very cool, pretty much like the offices and stores all around us. It is a bad habit conservation-wise, and we've heard that for years. But from my own personal experience, I truly believe that setting the thermostat somewhere around 78, even 80, will allow for a comfortable interior environment that is still not overly cold where one is essentially "acclimated" to Cool.

    My wife and I moved to Hattiesburg, MS, back in 2005 (2 weeks before Katrina; what timing, eh?). Our apt was fairly well shaded, which helps quite a bit, but it allowed us to keep our thermostat set at 80 for the entire summer. Ceiling fans are a must, of course, and open windows/doors are necessary too, but over all (and there is data out there to actually support this), fresh, free-flowing air in the house is far healthier than recycled chilled air, and again, keep the temp at a reasonable temp and you might find the outdoor temperatures less oppressive.

    Of course, once one is into the 90s, there is not a whole lot to do other than hydrate, hydrate, hydrate....and work out really early in the AM.

  6. The problem of overcooled offices ( and stores) also takes away a natural level of acclimatization.

  7. I think I'm permanently acclimated to heat, if that makes any sense. Probably, this has a lot to do with my winter workouts being in a gym. And, I do sweat profusely indoors.

    Come summer weather, I'm ready to run almost straight away. Last three days here in the NE, we've had a heatwave. I ran all three days outdoors, including a race, and loved it! Yesterday, in 95 degrees, full sun, I ran 13.2 miles with no cover. I did use a little sunscreen and carried a water bottle. I even impressed myself yesterday because my forehead didn't even get warm. I sure sweat a ton, though.

  8. You're lucky that 95 is considered a "heatwave." Here in AZ, anything below 95 in the summer is considered a cold wave and cause to go for a run outside.

  9. "for 30 minutes AFTER a 30-minute run,” not BEFORE as the article lists

  10. Maybe they meant before, as the day before.

  11. I think the title of the article meant "beforehand" as in the days or weeks before your major race in the heat.

  12. Whoever wrote the title seems to have a poor grasp on the meaning of "beforehand". Or maybe this is deliberate punishment of people who only read headlines.

  13. While trying unsuccessfully to keep cool beside the pool in a Phoenix resort in July (even with the misters on), someone told me to first go into the hot tub for a few minutes. That seemed counter intuitive but it worked incredibly well. Although the air temperature was 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, it was quite tolerable. Unfortunately, the hot tub trick did not work nearly as well in the Florida summer heat, I assume because of the very high humidity.

  14. The time to acclimate to the heat is to create a personal hot micro environment before the weather turns warm, either by working out indoors for an extended period or wearing several layers of clothing in cold weather and doing a long duration workout. Lastly, keeping a low body mass is essential. Lower weight and small size, exposing less surface area to the warm environment results in a lower core temperature

  15. I have run at 120 degrees in Phoenix. 90 degrees without humidity surely is not ideal, but hydrating before you go out is all the preparation you need. 90 with humidity is a whole different thing. I'd rather run at a dry 120 than at 90 degrees with 90% humidity. This article is all about temperature and ignores humidity. I would not bother to pre-cool for a dry 90 degrees. For a humid 90, I'd do anything that would help.

  16. With the Arizona heat in triple digits most of the Summer, perhaps these techniques could help Arizona runners and cyclists acclimate more effectively and safely.

  17. Perhaps, they can. I would think if you're living in such a place, acclimation would come naturally- i.e., something you just grew up with or adjusted to, without even trying. Surely, it wouldn't be necessary to do it indoors if it's so hot outside.

    What I'd probably try is running slowly for 1-3 miles for a while first. Wear sunscreen because it not only protects from dangerous rays but it keeps the skin cooler, seems to me. Secondly, I'd make sure I had plenty to drink and enough water left over for a little overhead splash, as necessary. As the runs get longer, I'd add in an electrolyte pill (salt pill) every hour. The water's the hard part. Either you have to pass public fountains on the running route or stores or stash the stuff yourself before the run.

    Don't run early morning or early evening, if you ever intend to acclimate. That is an avoidance technique and won't help at all.

    I've been itching to go to the Grand Canyon for a long hike/run but I'm afraid. Stories by the NPS are so scary about how hot it is down in the big hole. Even though I like the heat, I can't run very well with a gallon and a half of water on my back. I'm thinking maybe September would be better for this gorgeous hike.

  18. @Ron A.

    My daughter and I visited GCNP about a year ago in April. That time of year it is fairly chilly at the south rim. We hiked down the Bright Angel trail out to the tip of plateau point and back - about 3300 feet down, then back up. There was definitely a temperature change, but not as much as I was expecting (thankfully).

    And yes, a breathtakingly beautiful hike.

  19. Don't know if one can acclimate to the temps in Phoenix this week. Today, 118, and continuing like this for 5 days- full sun, 0% precipitation. Never seen such a forecast. Not sure if I'd like it. If nothing else, I'd be afraid my rubber soles would melt on the pavement and my car or bike tires would explode from the air expanding.

  20. The body cools by evaporation so hot, humid weather is a double whammy.

    Heat injuries are caused by heat, and prevention involves both adapting to the heat and minimizing heat load. Treatment is immediate cooling (iced sheets, chilled IV, ice water bath, etc.).

    The first symptoms are mental: confusion, irritability, etc. Minimizing the heat load means moving exercise to cooler parts of the day and cooler locations plus short, more frequent work-rest cycles.

    A full hydrated, fully acclimated person can still get a heat injury. Move to electrolytes drinks when you're drinking more than say 2 quarts (certainly a gallon)(and an electrolyte beverage than has all the electrolytes).

    Hydration packs are a great way to improve hydration. Put large ice in made from an electrolyte drink.

    Excess alcohol and sunburn increase the risk of a heat injury (as do some medications).

  21. I live in an area where I can exercise indoors, including weight-walking down a long hallway.

    One can also purchase an indoor stepping machine to get a good workout.

  22. Over 40 years ago TheJournal of Biomedical Meteorology reported on tests done by the military that showed that to function well in hot weather, people should gradually acclimate by working increasingly longer and harder outside each day for two to three weeks. No trendy hot tub is needed.

  23. After 30 years of running and playing tennis, I have given up running entirely. Most of my tennis is played in an air-conditioned facility. My knees finally won the battle over my bravado. I do recall however reading in the magazine "Runner's World" the admonition to try to stay out of air-conditioned environments as much as possible to aid in heat acclamation. Hot baths and reading help cure all ills.

  24. I just moved to Saigon, Vietnam in January (High humidity, over 90 F every day). I have been playing tennis outdoors regularly and battling the effects the heat and humidity have on my body. I am 47, 6'2", 200 lbs and in above average physical condition. I can literally wring a pint or more of water out of my clothing after an hour of tennis. Locals do not have this problem even remotely. Intense hydration before and after make a difference, seemingly. As do electrolyte drinks taken at intervals during play. I note that the ambient heat and humidity aren't nearly as difficult as direct sun exposure. I can literally feel my head starting to spin almost immediately and my energy levels sag when I'm in direct sunlight.

  25. You forgot to ask Carl James about humidity, makes all the difference. He knows, he's in Malaysia.

  26. I did a long race this past weekend in 100% humidity and it rained off and on. Temps only topped about 80, though. The conditions didn't seem to affect anybody and some amazing distances were recorded. Didn't bother me either but I could feel the steaminess in the air.

  27. My advice as a person living in a very hot place: most heat deaths occur because people find themselves in a situation they cannot easily escape--i.e. if they start overheating, they can't quickly get into an air-conditioned house or car. In other words, when it's hot, don't go hiking out on the trails or driving down unpaved desert roads. Someone running a 26 mile road marathon can just call a cab if she starts feeling faint. A person who has gone out on a three mile desert hike cannot, and usually, people hesitate to call 911 for a rescue and try to tough it out for a while. That's when the heat stroke and dizziness-related falls occur. Most heat deaths in our area have occurred on trail locations or unpaved road.

  28. Good advice. But if a sweaty marathoner calls a cab, I sure hope I'm not the taxi driver.

  29. I never acclimate. Not in five days, not in two weeks, not over a summer. I do my workouts in the gym which is never cool enough. My house I keep warm, but I don't exercise there. If it's over 50 on Marathon Sunday, I'll be unhappy...I've never liked being hot or outside in the sun but I have tried to acclimate with nothing but heat cramps to show for it.

  30. How did the control group (with no acclimatizing) fare over the same 4 workouts? No control group... the results are unfortunately meaningless.

  31. I am both a medical provider and an amateur athlete who is very vulnerable to heat exhaustion. This article makes me nervous as it seems to make only a cavalier nod to the risks of over heating when exercising in high temperatures. The science here is very weak and flawed as well. There is likely a huge variation in individual heat tolerance and potential for heat adaptation. Mine is poor, my husband's tolerance is extraordinarily high. I fear this article will encourage the "super athlete want-to-be" to over heat and then jump in a hot bath pushing their core temperature too high. Listen to your body folks! Use common sense! Be careful in the heat and avoid it if you need to!!! If you're over heating then bring your temp. down! not up!

  32. New York Times/Gretchen Reynolds: Please cut it out.

    Seriously. Do not publish "fake news"--and yes, it IS fake news!--that associates a prescriptive headline ("Try a Hot Bath Beforehand") with "research" that fails to back up the prescription.

    As others have pointed out, this is not scientific research.

    The sample size is so small the results are meaningless, there is no control group, and the sample size is almost certainly not representative of any population.

    Aside from the small size which renders it meaningless, were the nine--yes, NINE!--runners on which this recommendation is based all young? Old? Male? Female? Black? White? We don't know, and in science... it matters.

    You are demeaning the definition of "science" by reporting this as actionable.

    "Science" is not just "anything a scientist writes happens to get published".

    At BEST this is a HIGHLY preliminary study that is indicative of the need for additional research--certainly nothing to base a recommendation to the Times' large and diverse readership on!!

    By writing about this study as if it were science, the Times is dumbing down real science and contributing to scientific innumeracy.

    In a few hours I will be onstage presenting a set of legitimate scientific findings (not my own) to an audience. I will say, with great sadness, that the Times and other media are terrible at covering science.

    Articles like this are why.

  33. Anecdotes are not data.

  34. I am one of those people whose body heat seems be concentrated in the face and head. So when I run on hot days I fill a hat with crushed ice. I can run about a mile and a half before it all melts, and then I fill it up again at a convenience store.

  35. How about spending some time in a steam room at the gym? Will this help with acclimatization?

  36. The best way to handle the heat when exercising is to run real fast when hit by the sun and real slow when walking under trees.

  37. before moving to the Bahamas - I thought no problem summer temperatures run 80 at night and 90 during the day - missed the 70+ percent humidity that kicks in late April /early May up from - 40% November to March. The Bahamas might be the place or you could try Florida - Miami is nearly the same temperature. I heard from family Orlando Florida had set a record in 2016 - 120 days over 90 degrees straight - with humidities running from below 30% to 100%

  38. Cycled from sunrise to sunset yesterday on the Solstice, 15 hours in over 90 degree weather, 5 hours in over 100, peaked at 107. Took electrolye pills before, during and after, drank sports drinks with Emergency packs at three intervals and packed plenty of water. If I had some sort of breathable wetsuit I think I could handle higher temps.

  39. the first trail clearing in heat is a bummer. They get easier, the heat does not get less, as the season progress. Also keeping hydrated turely keeps tje sweat flowing. Too over heat is to fatigue, to fagtiue to get nothing done, bigger bummer.

  40. Use caution in hot humid weather, I consider myself adjusted to Florida summers, been here for many years, but sometimes I think I'm super old timer. I have to prove that to myself, I'm not.
    I ride my bicycle to the gym, do leg work on a seated leg press machine, crunches, stretches, then another tide in the 90's heat home. Then because I feel great after a workout, I ride my Me-Mover to the store in the same heat and humidity. Still feel great, until the next day.
    Wasted is the best way to describe the whole day, from 1 to 10 a 3.5. Now I feel good a day later, sometimes I have to keep the motivation reasonably in check.

  41. This is stupid...I get up at 3:45 to run because of the hot weather here. I'm not going to take a bath before I run. If you want to run in hot weather, train in hot weather. Ask those who do Death Valley each year...I bet they are out right now (it's 105 here) and not wasting precious water to acclimate!

  42. Unfortunately this piece is not definitive, open to speculation and reads like a summary to a longer and much comprehensive article.

  43. The planet is becoming so hot that we should draw a hot bath before a jog or run so that we can acclimate to the heat? Should we also quit eating 6 days a week so that we can acclimate to the famine that would be the result if everyone acted on this ridiculous advice?