There’s one thing that’s guaranteed if you’re planning on keeping in shape this summer- and that’s heat. As the mercury rises you may find yourself swapping your evening run for a cold drink in an air conditioned basement. There’s no doubt- exercising in the heat can be a bit uncomfortable, but there are some ways to manage the summer heat and still log your workouts. Here are a few tips to help you stay active and safe this summer.
Get acclimatized to the heat, slowly. With repeated exposure to hot workouts, your body adapts to the heat. With time, your heart function will improve, heart rate will drop, you’ll sweat sooner, and your body will also naturally lose less salt through sweat and urine. All these adaptations will increase your tolerance to working out in the heat. Acclimatization takes time. Start with 15-20 minutes of light exercise and gradually increase as your body gets used to the warmer weather.
Drink plenty of fluids. When you exercise in the heat, more water is lost through sweating, causing a decrease in blood volume. If the fluid in not replaced, the heart must work harder to pump blood to the working muscles. This can result in increased heart rate, excessive fatigue and dizziness. To stay hydrated, start replenishing your fluids before you exercise. During exercise, drink 6-8 ounces of water every twenty minutes. If you’ll be exercising for longer than an hour, consider adding electrolytes your water.
Dress for the weather. Wear light coloured, loose fitting clothing to keep cool in the summer. Look for clothes made from synthetic technical fabrics (such as those labeled “Coolmax” or “Dri Fit”) instead of cotton. These technical fabrics are more comfortable and will decrease chaffing. Also, be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat. Opt for waterproof sunscreen if you anticipate breaking a sweat.
Use ice and cold water to keep cool. Drinking very cold water, or splashing ice-cold water on your face and head can keep you cool. Better yet- alternate a set of body weight cardio exercises with a swim in the lake.
Avoid the midday sun. When possible, avoid working out at the hottest hours of the day. Get up an hour early to go for a run before work, or schedule your tennis game when it cools down in the evening. If possible, exercise in the shade where it is a little cooler.
Reset your expectations. Even if you are acclimatized to the heat, don’t expect your body to perform as well as it does in milder temperatures. Gauge your exercise intensity based on how you feel, not how fast you are moving or how much you are lifting. Listen to your body and take breaks when needed.
Watch out for signs of heat exhaustion. Watch for signs of heat-related illness. These signs include excessive fatigue, headaches, dizziness, feeling faint, rapid heartbeat, nausea and vomiting. Young children, older adults and pregnant women are more susceptible to experiencing the negative effects of the heat. If you experience any of these signs, get out of the heat and rest. If the symptoms persist for more than one hour, or if you have a fever, seek medical help.
Have a Plan B. Even with the appropriate precautions, a long run in the hot sun is unpleasant and potentially dangerous. Have a back up plan when the heat becomes intolerable. Change up your run for a strength workout, or swap your weekly hike for a swim.
While the summer presents many opportunities to be active, it is important to stay safe while exercising outdoors. Listen to your body when enjoying the summer sun. When in doubt, exercise indoors. If you are getting tired of the hot weather, remember that it won’t last forever. Soon enough you will be planning your outdoor endeavors around the endless days of winter rain…
Tanja Shaw is a health and fitness coach, Rotarian, passionate entrepreneur, mom, runner, and owner of Ascend Fitness Inc. and host of the Fit & Vibrant You Podcast. Tanja and her team of expert fitness coaches inspire and coach others to become stronger, more confident and energetic versions of themselves. Visit Tanja at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com and www.tanjashaw.com.