Exercising in the heat can be an unavoidable circumstance at times, especially if you live in an area where it is hot most of the year. In addition, being part of certain outdoor competitions can leave you at risk of suffering from heat stroke if you are not careful.
Aside from not exercising like a madman, there is not much you can do to control what happens to you in extreme weather conditions. However, there are some basic precautions you can take to ensure the heat does not get the best of you when you really get into your workout.
As most people know, getting plenty of fluids is incredibly important to a person’s overall health. Not only do we need lots of it just to survive but we also need even more of it to prevent problems while exercising in the heat. Water is what you should reach for most often, but try to chug some of those electrolyte-infused sports drinks, too. Whatever you do, drink your fluids at room temperature. If you drink extremely cold liquids while exercising in the heat, you can give yourself cramps, indigestion, or nausea.
Sweating is a natural function used to cool the body during times of physical exertion. If you stop working out because you are getting too sweaty for exercising in the heat, then you unfortunately miss out on the purging effect that sweat has on your body’s system. Think of it as a natural sauna—cleaning your pores as it strengthens and improves your physique.
It is important for you to stop often for breaks when you are exercising in the heat (or even in the cold). Your body is going through a lot to maintain a healthy temperature while keeping your muscles moving for the workout you are performing. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) requires you to work out for short periods and then stop for a moment, thereby turning a brief workout into a highly effective one. This might be your best bet for those heated workout routines.
When working out in hot weather conditions, you want to be careful not to shock your body. Do not jump into extremely cold water, chug any beverages that are chilled too much, or even go back and forth between outside and an air-conditioned area. This could cause you some pretty serious problems if you are not careful.
When you’re exercising in the heat choosing to wear the right clothing makes a massive difference. You need both light fabrics and colors to work on your side. For affordability, cotton is both lightweight and widely available for helping you to stay cool and dry. Choose a lighter weave so you’re not layering on a thick piece of fabric.
Choose something that will perform well with your sport of choice, but that isn’t too clingy, so that air flow will be possible between you and the garment. Bright colors are great for reflecting the sun away from you (and to make you more visible if you’re running on the side of the road!). Sweat-wicking materials are more expensive but also perform well, particularly in bright colors.
Sunscreen keeps you cool? Not exactly. However, when you’re doing your best to keep exercising in the heat, the worst thing you can do is head out with a sunburn. Stop that problem before it happens by getting a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of around 30 to 50. Apply liberally and reapply regularly, particularly when you’re swimming or sweating.
Heading out at noon may seem like a good idea in the wintertime, but when you’re exercising in the heat, that time is among the worst for heading out. Consider outdoor summertime workouts out of bounds between 10am and 3pm unless you’re swimming. Try to get your workout done before or after those times. Many athletes prefer waking up and heading out first thing in the morning during the summer, before the day heats up. This way, they get a great workout while it’s still relatively cool, they’re energized for the day, and they sleep better at night.
Even with all the right tips on your side, sometimes, it’s just not a good idea to exercise in the heat. When there are heat or air quality warnings in place, or when you’re just not feeling at your best, take things inside. Do a workout in the air conditioning, where it’s easier to control your body’s response. It may not be ideal, but when it’s the safe option, it’s the better one.