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Training in the Heat of the Summer — Any Tips?

Staying cool

Training in the summer months takes some special consideration especially if you live in a hot and humid environment like the South, East Coast and Midwest. However, training in arid and hot environments like the Southwest and Western U.S. require the same considerations. Dryer climates can actually be more dangerous as you do not sweat to stay cool (it just evaporates almost instantly) — but you will notice salt stains on clothing just the same.

Here is a question from a trainer down in Charleston, who needed some ideas other than the typical “stay well hydrated, avoid the heat of the day, etc…”

Stew, I train mostly fighters. I believe outdoor training-​​pt and running /​ rucking for regular marines gets red flagged here around 92 degrees F. Do you have any thoughts on training in the heat for elite athletes, like SEALs or Marine Force Recon. My question is limited to upper limits of training in the heat. I train athletes, all kinds, for max performance, and then some for specific conditions, like altitude or heat as an event approaches. I don’t want a fighter overwhelmed by heat in the ring or on the field– but I want them performing like they trained in ideal conditions. Any advice?

I have found through experience and studies that half of fatigue is related to body heat so if you can keep the fighter’s body heat down the better they will be no matter what the temperature is outside. We train year round but in the Summer we get most of our workouts done in the early AM so it is always bearable on the heat scale but we do a few acclimatizing workouts in the later day to get used to 90+ degrees. Eventually, if you do it right, your fighters will say, ” Hey it is only going to be 89 degrees today, better bring a sweater.” I used to think the SEAL instructors were just putting us in the water as part of the cold water torture program to get us to quit, BUT I remember so many times that after a long beach run in the heat of the day, that getting into the cold Pacific Ocean was reinvigorating once we were finished. It did not seem like Surf Torture then.

As you know hydration is the key before, during and after. And when profusely sweating (or producing salt stains) you need the salts (electrolytes) even more that normal. Sweating is the key to staying cool BUT if in arid environments or humid as well you need to get them soaking wet in a pool, lake, river, water hose — that really helps too and almost gives the students a second wind.

We typically will workout in the heat — feel completely burned out and very hot then jump in the pool to start a swim workout. After about 3–4 minutes of cooling down all members are ready to go again almost as if they were fresh and did not get hot prior. Like I said — half of fatigue is body heat. Stay cool, hydrated, well-​​fueled and you can go all day.

So our heat busting workouts look like this:

Limit time to one hour in the heat /​ humidity finding shade as much as possible to do PT /​ water breaks etc.

My Spec Ops groups and I will typically run 5–6 miles with mixed in calisthenics of pullups, pushups, abs, squats for that 45–60 minutes. Then go to the pool and continue with swim PT.

Hydrate /​ electrolytes /​ carbs can be added now — jump in the pool and cool down 4–5 minutes.

Typical Swim PT Workout:
Repeat 10–15 times
100m swim
pushups 20–30
plank pose for remainder of 2 min pushup set
rest with abs of choice 1 min

Prior to getting in the water we do not feel like doing part two of this workout BUT after that pool cool down it really helps.

So in a nutshell, keep them cool with some form of water not just drinking water but some form of getting soaked water methods. When you can, PT in the shade. Start harder workouts in the early morning, but as the group gets used to the morning heat, push to later in the morning and into the early afternoon. Always follow hot workouts with a way to completely soak your body and find a way to cool down.

Special Consideration for air quality. Often in the heat of the day if the smog pollution level /​ ozone levels are high, it can actually be harmful to train in the bad air. Upper respiratory infections can quickly follow as “they say” it is like smoking a pack of cigarettes when you run in poor air quality so it depends on your geographical location as well.

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Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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