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With the weather heating up recently, our writer recalls how his NS experience helped him coped with the sweltering temperatures. IMAGE: MINDEF

How The Army Taught Me To Prepare For A Heatwave

Is it me or has the weather in Singapore been super erratic lately? Thankfully, we’ve seen much welcome rain over the last few days, but for a time, the heat was jialat. The sweltering weather not only descended on our Little Red Dot, but swept through most of our regional neighbours over the last few months.

Thank God for our numerous air-conditioned shopping malls and that helped us shelter from the crazy temperatures. Global warming is no joke guys! As we’re edging towards our hottest months in the middle of the year, we’re not quite out of the woods yet.

While I’ve been trying my best to keep to my daily routines, including running and playing football outdoors, the recent heatwave has gotten me reminiscing about my army days training under similar, if not worse conditions. Thankfully, my time doing National Service taught me how to prevent heat injuries and conduct safe training even in extreme temperatures. Here are 5 such tips, which you can adopt in your civilian lives.

Heat acclimatisation exercises

In the SAF, the risk of heat injuries is ever present, especially when you’re conducting operations in various terrains and outdoor conditions. From the time you enter the army, you’re required to take your temperatures daily.

You’re given yellow bands so that your superiors can monitor you closely, especially if you have a history of heat injuries. As soldiers, we undergo progressive heat acclimatisation exercises so that your body can gradually handle the load that you’re required to bear.

This is especially important when you’re gearing up for route marches and having to carry a heavy field pack and rifle while wearing a helmet and all the various equipment. You don’t wear it all at once. It’s important to listen to your body especially when doing strenuous activities, be it as a civilian or soldier. There’s no use being a hero and trying to complete that 10k run under the hot sun when every ounce of your being is screaming at you to not do so.

Hydration regimes

In the army, water parades are a daily ritual. “Half-full water bottle DRINK UP!” Those are the common cries from a SAF soldier before, during and after training. This might be a bit TMI but I vividly recall my commander saying with a straight face to the recruits, that unless your urine is clear, you will continue drinking. As crude as that sounds, the fella has a point.

In your daily life, are you really drinking enough? The general rule of thumb is at least “8 glasses a day”, according to HealthHub SG. With the recent extreme weather, it becomes even more important that we ensure we are fully hydrated throughout the day.

Eating your veggies and fruits for fluids

You don’t have to get your minimum daily fluid intake from just water. Fruits and vegetables also contain fluids that can contribute to your hydration needs. During meal times in the SAF, there’s always fruits such as apples and bananas to accompany your main course.

Other foods that are high in water include cucumber, tomatoes, celery and watermelons. Try to make these fruits and veggies a part of your daily food intake and the battle against the heat is already half won.

Buying a WGBT heat stress metre

Now we’re really getting into army speak. In the SAF, we are introduced to what is called the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WGBT), which measures heat stress in direct sunlight or environmental heat that affects human beings. The army has even incorporated the WGBT Heat Stress Monitor tool to aid their heat injury prevention methods.

So here’s the cool part. Did you know that you can buy your own WGBT Heat Stress Monitor from Amazon? Next time you’re out camping or hiking, this could be a handy tool to accurately measure the temperature, humidity and even direct sunlight.

Choosing breathable and light fabrics

This might seem like a no-brainer but there are still people in Singapore dressing like as if they’re part of an Autumn/Winter collection catalogue just because it’s #fashion. Newsflash people, we are living in a tropical climate. Leave those #OOTDs for when you’re in Europe or Japan. Linen and cotton should be your go-to choices of fabrics.

Even the SAF are taking such matters seriously in the face of rising temperatures. In recent years, the army has introduced hybrid uniforms and tweaked the design of the Load Bearing System to ensure the soldier’s uniform is much more breathable and supports heat resilience. If only this was a thing during my NS days. Those older generation uniforms felt like I was inside an oven at times LOL.

Bonus Tip: Wear sunscreen regularly

I thought I would just add this extra point. No, the SAF didn’t teach this, it was 100% my girlfriend. Don’t underestimate the importance of wearing sunscreen every day, not just when you’re going to the beach. It protects you from UV rays and helps to prevent skin cancer. Boys, if you’re reading this, listen to your partner!

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