Like many athletes, I spend each winter counting down the days until spring. I am not a fan of running or biking in the cold, so the warm weather is always a nice welcome. But before too long, summer comes — and I’m complaining about the heat!
Exercising in the summer is more than just uncomfortable. It can be downright dangerous if you don’t take measures to protect yourself.
This doesn’t mean you have to confine your workouts to the indoors from June through August in order to exercise safely. Instead, simply follow these tips to stay comfortable - and safe - during a hot summer workout:
1. Get your sweat on in the early morning or late evening. Don’t exercise at midday, because that’s when temperatures are at their highest and the sun’s hot rays are at their peak. You’ll stay much cooler during your workout if you either set your alarm a bit earlier or wait until after dinner to be active.
2. Drink before you’re thirsty. Staying well-hydrated is the secret to avoiding dangerous heat-related conditions. Drink up before you’re thirsty, because our thirst sensation generally doesn’t appear until we’re already a bit dehydrated. Ideally you should drink a glass or two of water before you head out to exercise, drink more after every fifteen minutes or so of activity, and keep hydrating once you get home. When you exercise intensely, or for an extended period of time, drink a sports beverage to replace the salt and other electrolytes you lose through sweat.
3. Shield yourself from the sun. Sunburn inhibits your body’s ability to cool itself. Lather up with SPF 15 sunscreen or higher thirty minutes before you plan to head outdoors. Wearing a hat and sunglasses will also protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.
4. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Moisture-wicking apparel will help you stay cool and dry, and lighter colored clothes help reflect heat better than darker clothes.
5. Seek shade. If you’re a road runner, the summer is a perfect time to try trail running. The shade from the trees will keep you cooler than the open, baking road.
6. Take plenty of breaks. Rest early and often, and take breaks whenever you need them. In hot weather, it’s always better to err on the side of caution than to push yourself too far.
7. Gradually get used to the heat. It typically takes 10 to 14 days for your body to get used to exercising in a new climate. Start by working out for short time, at a relatively low intensity. Hold off on doing long, hard workouts until you’re better acclimated to the hot weather.
8. Check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be a real scorcher, do not exercise outside. It’s not safe - or smart - to push yourself through an outdoor workout when a heat advisory is in place.
9. Know when to stop. If you have muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache, dizziness, and/or confusion stop your workout right away. These are signs of heat-related illnesses which can be life-threatening if not caught in time.
10. Have a Plan B. If the heat is too much for you on certain days, stick with indoor workouts. Exercise in an air-conditioned environment such as a gym or yoga studio. Or, consider purchasing a piece of fitness equipment so you can be active in the comfort of your own home. Check out this LIVESTRONG elliptical for sale.
What’s your favorite time of year to exercise? What are your tips for beating the heat?