Tips for Training in Tropical Climates - Phil Hawksworth

Tips for Training in Tropical Climates

I’ve been in South East Asia for 4 months now. It did rain for 2 days one time, but apart from that it is hot and sunny every day and only getting hotter.

That’s no excuse to be weak and out of shape though. So train you must.

Thing is, when its 40 degree C and they aren’t so well equipped on the air con front, it’s hard work!

Here are some tips and ideas for how best to train when it’s hot as…

Ease in

I think I gave myself heat stroke the first time I trained in Thailand. I took it easy and did very little volume. I hadn’t trained hard for a couple of weeks, with it being Christmas and New Year, so I didn’t push at all – “just get moving and build back up” – I thought.

Yeh…I was still beat for 2 days afterward. Exhausted. Not really sore, but so drained and I felt ill later the same day.

However easy you think you should take it, take it twice that easy.

Phil Hawksworth training in tropical climates

Do a few light snatches; get heat stroke.

Strength work is easier

Low reps, long rest periods. You will be able to train pretty much at your full strength capacity. It won’t drop off hard, due to the short duration of sets.

Try doing 10 sets of 10 with 60 seconds rest and I guaranteed by set 4 you will be humbled by how quickly your strength and capacity fall off a cliff. You need to acclimatise to the heat, to build back your work capacity and the ability to maintain performance over time.

Initially, I would recommend strength work as you can still make progress there, whilst using the subsequent assistance work to build your tolerance for workload in the heat, without caring about the weights/numbers. Plus strength work is more awesome (personal opinion).

Use rehydration powders

Forget about protein shakes and BCAA’s, if you’re passing out in your own vomit, it won’t make much difference.

Re-hydration powders in your water are a must; I have noticed that even the locals use them in the gym here in Cambodia – and they’re used to the heat.

Fact is, you will sweat an inordinate amount, indeed – you will do all day. You probably eat less than you would at home and you probably eat less variety of food than you would at home.

All this leads to great potential for deficiencies in key minerals and and salts that need replacing. Head to the pharmacy and buy some re-hydration powder, its super cheap and it will really help you get through the workout. Maybe grab a fresh coconut afterward too.

mmmhhh hydration

Fresh coconut

Shorten your workouts

If you normally work out for 2 hours, I’d start by capping it at 1 hour. If you normally do 1 hour, cap it at 30 minutes.

This way you can maintain high intensity and mental focus, before you are lagging too much from the heat and hit by dehydration/heat stroke.

You get more benefit from intensity and mental focus than from accumulating time in the gym half-assing it. Put the phone in a locker, postpone being Mr. Chatty Guy until after your session and get on with it.

You can text your girlfriend and make friends when you’re laid in a puddle of your own sweat post workout – Crossfit style.

Take the opportunity to work on your weaknesses

You’re not going to set your best WOD time or gain 2kg lean mass in your first month in the heat. Do some strength work, do hypertrophy & endurance work to build work capacity – don’t worry about the numbers.

Spend additional time doing things less effected by the heat.

  • Correct postural imbalances
  • Improve mind muscle connection through focused effort
  • Improve mobility/flexibility
  • Improve technique or fix faulty movement patterns
  • Strengthen hands, rotator cuff, hip stabilisers and all that boring but necessary stuff


Training is a long game and you will set yourself backwards by going too hard and running yourself in to the ground. You’re better to take it as an enforced de-load and focus on the other things mentioned above.

After a few weeks, you will be more used to the heat and be able to hit it hard again. Knowing how it works, if you use the time sensibly to work on weaknesses, you will come back stronger anyway.

Like it? Share the love