tips for exercising in the heat

tips for exercising in the heat

This past weekend was a HOT one for many areas of the country–summer is officially here! I had my usual 9:30am bootcamp class on Sunday and it was particularly humid and sticky. I had something unprecedented, an all-male class, so I was excited to push them and get into a grittier workout. Sadly, only a couple of minutes into the workout I knew my plan had to be tossed–it was just entirely too hot to make these guys do what I had envisioned. Thankfully I have experience in this because the whole workout had to be modified.

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here are my warrior bootcampers…that morning was close to 90 degrees WITH humidity!

Exercising in the heat can be fun but dangerous. After the dreadful winter months it’s liberating to set free outside and be one with nature. It does, however, require some planning ahead to avoid any heat-related issues. How do you know whether to dial it down during your outdoor workout? Symptoms I usually spot in clients are decreased balance or uncoordinated movements, any kind of headaches, easy point of fatigue, and any kind of change in vision. Once any symptoms spring up, it’s important to take immediate action to cool down the body. Heat exposure can lead to heat stroke, which, if untreated, can occasionally lead to death!

Alrighty, enough of the scary stuff. If you’re looking to get your fitness on outside, here are some preemptive measures to follow before you start on your workout journey:

  • HYDRATE. I mean it–before, during, and after your workout. If you know that tomorrow brings a long run, plan ahead and stock up on your hydration levels the night before. Gulp down some pints of water and you’ll start the next day with more energy and better hydration. Be sure to bring water or an electrolyte beverage with you while you work out. One way to keep an eye on your hydration is to weigh yourself before and after your workout; a one to two pound weight loss typically translates to a water deficit. Aim for a couple of glasses of water within the hour before you go outside, and then have some sips every 15 to 20 minutes during your exercise session.
  • Timing is everything. If your schedule permits, early morning or later evening exercise sessions are most appropriate. You avoid the blazing sun and dangerous UV rays. Not to mention, you may get the bonus of watching the sun rise or set!
  • Scout out the shade. Try to keep your workouts within the shade; I often have my bootcampers do circuit training with stations all located under a shady tree. You can always search for the cooler side of the street or the tree-lined path in the park.
  • Slather on the SPF. Sun rays are only getting stronger as the season rolls on, so it’s important to shield your skin from the harmful beams of light. There is a huge market for sport sunscreens, so try ’em all, pick your favorite, and stock up!
  • Don’t be a hero. Exercising in the heat is a challenge enough, so don’t go outside and try to break records for speed. The heat is taxing on the body, so readjust your expectations and just look at the workout as fun time spent outside. The moment you burst into that sprint or those plyometrics, you may regret it later. I have a ton of bootcampers that get frustrated on humid days but they don’t realize how much the weather affects their capacity. I just gently remind them that they’re here, they’re getting a good workout, and that progress takes time. Every day isn’t going to be the best day!
  • Dress accordingly. “Sweat-wicking” and “breathable” are friendly terms when it comes to shopping for hot-weather apparel. My personal favorite is the Swiftly Tech racerback tank from Lululemon. It’s extremely lightweight and the Silverescent fabric gives it anti-stink properties. You do pay a premium for the quality, but I have a few of these garments and they look the same as they did from day one. And boy, have they seen sweat! Other than sweat-wicking fabrics, think about layering with the intention of stripping off items–a tank over a sports bra for women or just a tank for men. When it’s that hot, no one cares what you look like, so don’t be modest!

So if you must be outside in the heat, make sure you plan ahead. My favorite thing to do when I return home from an outdoor session is to place my wrists under cold water from the faucet–it immediately cools down your internal body temperature. If I’m really desperate for some help, I’ll run my feet under the water as well. Be careful!

Any other tips that you guys can think of? What’s your favorite workout to do in the heat?

related post: running: heat vs. cold debate