DAY 7/90: See the Sweat

DAY 7/90: See the Sweat
If you can’t see the sweat, you’re doing it wrong.

9 July 2022

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How do you prove effort? Sweat is one way to prove it, but it’s not always the best indicator. Sometimes health factors will create sweat. If you’re sick you could be sweaty just by lying in bed. Sometimes weather will create sweat without much effort at all.

Orlando was named the sweatiest city in the country earlier this week. It was on local news, in the Orlando Weekly and I’m sure in other places around town. Digging into the details, the study was conducted by that scientific powerhouse website My Dating Adviser. They didn’t go to each city and collect the sweat from citizens of the top 200 cities in the country. They DID compare several metrics related to weather (heat and humidity), population (density, exercise rate, events) and opportunities to cool off (amount of shade, average wind speed, bodies of water, etc.).

With that, The Give Team is proud to say we’re contributing our share to the sweat factor. Yes, you can sweat just by standing still in Orlando. But we like to earn our sweat.

“But training in the heat is DANGEROUS. You could DIE!” Correct. You could also die by crossing the street because you didn’t look both ways. And the reality is we’re ALL going to die. Just not today if you do it right (GIVE TEAM RULE 10). Here’s how you do it right. Stay hydrated (water, water, water + electrolytes). And if you’re going out for a long time (more than an hour), bring a buddy. Bring a buddy anyway. It’s more fun sweating in numbers. There.

Yes, it’s hot in the summer here in Orlando. BUT there’s a BIG BENEFIT living in an area that’s hotter than most. There’s a training impact comparable to the benefit humans get from training at altitude.

We learned this firsthand when Joe De Sena challenged The Give Team to do 4,000 burpees in 24 hours in the middle of the COVID pandemic. The challenge was met with a collective eye roll because of the huge, seemingly impossible nature of it. He sweetened the pot by offering a $10,000 reward to be split between those who completed the challenge. That following weekend over breakfast, we did the math. 3 burpees every minute. For 24 hours. And $10,000. Let's go.

There isn’t a better whole body calisthenic exercise for combining conditioning and strength than the burpee, and when you throw heat and humidity into the mix it becomes . . . memorable. We trained in the swampy heat of a Florida summer. There were times when we were training at the hottest points of the day, and it was brutal. Brutal in a fun way. Halfway through the summer, Joe saw we were serious with our training and invited us to his farm in Vermont to perform the actual burpees.

FUN FACT. Summer in Pittsfield, Vermont is a little different than summer in Orlando. When we started doing burpees on that Wednesday morning in Joe's barn in Pittsfield, that cool crisp air powered EVERYONE to complete the 4,000 burpees well before the 24 hour limit (everyone was done within 19 hours, to be exact). IN FACT, three team members went on to complete 10,000 burpees before the deadline. One team member learned the world record for most burpees in 24 hours was 10,111. So he did 10,112. The people from Guinness weren’t there to throw Holy Water on the experience, and we didn’t perform each burpee with the "world record" form standard. BUT WHO KNEW WHEN WE STARTED that even 4,000 would be possible? 

A prime contributing factor to the success each member of The Give Team experienced in August 2020 was the difference in environment between where we trained and where we performed. That’s was anecdotal and in my gut.

But there’s SCIENCE behind it.

Altitude training helps athletes perform better at sea level because the body becomes more efficient at getting oxygen to the muscles by generating more red blood cells. While training in the heat doesn’t cause the same adaptation, there are several other adaptations that may make training in heat MORE impactful on performance than training at altitude.

An article in Outside magazine by Meaghan Brown from 2016 addresses the amazing ways the body adapts when training in the heat with the following benefits:

  1. Increase in blood plasma volume (leading to higher cardiovascular fitness level);
  2. Reduce overall core temperature (increased sweat levels);
  3. Reduce blood lactate;
  4. Increase skeletal muscle force; and
  5. Improve performance in cold temperatures.

Santiago Lorenzo, a professor of physiology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and a former decathlete at the University of Oregon, is quoted in the article stating, “Heat acclimation provides more substantial environmental specific improvements in aerobic performance than altitude acclimation.” And the good news for those of us living on the giant sandbar, our bodies adjust more quickly to heat stress than to altitude. In addition Lorenzo states, “Heat training not only does a better job at increasing V02 max than altitude, but it also makes athletes better at withstanding a wider range of temperatures.”

So what? That means training safely in high temperature environments makes us stronger than in the comfortable confines of a gym. AND it’ll prepare us for the unlikely event we’ll encounter nasty COLD weather like we did last November during the GORUCK 50 Mile Star Course when we had the literal perfect storm of cold temperatures (40 degrees), high winds and rain.

How do we factor this into our training? We’ll continue to train outdoors. Because that’s what we do. We don’t really have an indoor option anyway, so let’s embrace this. With a smile. We’ll also continue to train SAFELY, which means teammates need to KEEP HYDRATED DURING THE WEEK. That means drinking water consistently THROUGHOUT the week so you arrive to the workouts properly prepared. We’ll KEEP HYDRATED DURING TEAM WORKOUTS. That one’s on me to provide and teammates to consume. And we’ll make sure workouts are properly balanced through the week. HEAT is a stressor, so even if we’re going out slow in high temperatures with high humidity, we need to count it a level above where we intended. Our NO EXCUSES / NO DAYS OFF CALENDAR calls for 2 hard days, 2 easy days and 3 moderate days per week. Training in high heat and humidity should ramp up an ordinarily easy day to a moderate day, and an ordinarily moderate day to a hard day.

So EMBRACE THE HEAT. And understand ESPECIALLY in the summer, if you can’t see the sweat, you’re doing it wrong.

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