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The Weird—But Science-Backed—Way To Feel Less Sluggish When You Work Out in the Heat

working out in heat

Photo: Tim Gibson for Well+Good

Though the warm weather is undoubtedly something to celebrate (it’s finally here), it can make it hard to lace up and go for a run—as opposed to, say, dining al fresco with an aperol spritz in hand. Heat, for most people, is a total exercise motivation killer.

According to new research, however, there’s an easy way to make sweating (even more) in high temperatures much more feasible. The secret? Taking a hot bath first (of course, you could always stop there since it’s just as beneficial as working out).

“You will receive a bigger bang for your buck from acclimating to the heat rather than by temporarily cooling yourself down.”

The study, as published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, has found that heat acclimation is key for still killing it in your sweat sesh—despite how sluggish 90 degrees plus humidity can make you feel. And it’s actually the first research done that compares pre-workout heat versus cooling.

At the University of Brighton in England, nine recreational runners went for a 5K run (without being heat-acclimated first) in a 90-degree room, and then did the same on three separate visits—sometimes cooling down ahead of time (by wearing clothing with ice packs) and other times warming up with vigorous exercise bike work in a 99-degree room.

Which regimen led to the fastest times? The pre-cooled runners increased their speeds by 4 percent, but the best performances came after the (very warm) warmups: the runners’ times dropped by an average of over 6.5 percent.

“You will receive a bigger bang for your buck from acclimating to the heat rather than by temporarily cooling yourself down,” concludes Carl James, the lead researcher of the study. And here’s the best part—he adds that you can do this by getting in some bath time. “Lie in a hot bath, heated to at least 104 degrees for 30 minutes after a 30-minute run.” This lets your body adapt better to ultra-hot temps.

Getting a better run and another valid excuse to sit in the bathtub? Time to draw up a mermaid bath, stat.

If you’re ready to get moving, here’s a running playlist that’ll power you through that first mile. And this is the lowdown on how long your runs should actually be.

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