Sweating is gross, so I try not to do it. However, the heat wave known as summer has broken and the simple act of walking outside results in heavy perspiration. And exercising? I’d rather not. But I will. Even when the thermometer climbs past the 90-degree mark, at least 75 minutes of exercise per week is necessary to maintain health and 30 minutes daily to stay fit. That’s a lot of sweating and, more importantly, an increased risk of over-heating. Avoid the misery of sun stroke with these tips for keeping your cool (and a strong physique) throughout the dog days.
Reset the Time
Traditional common sense tells us the higher the sun, the higher the temperature. Climate science, however, has identified a factor known as the diurnal cycle which accounts for a time lag between the position of the sun and the time its radiant heat reaches earth. The sun is high at noon, but the mercury reaches its peak closer to 3:30 p.m. So, not only should you nix your lunch hour run, you should also avoid exercising outdoors any time between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Instead:
- Wake up before the sun and avoid heat from both above and below. The ground will have released a lot of the heat absorbed the day before.
- Burn off the stress of the day with an evening workout when the slanted rays of a low-hanging sun offer long shadows and less intense heat.
- Split a long workout into two shorter sessions — one for morning, the other at night.
Get In Gear
Your internal temperature can rise up to 20 degrees during a cardio workout even when exercising in cool temperatures. Donning appropriate workout wear and adding the right accessories can make a world of difference in moderating your body heat.
- Think light. Clothing that is light in weight and in color will help deflect the sun’s hot rays. Moisture-wicking athletic-wear is designed to pull sweat away from your body and allow it to evaporate which cools you down. Avoid cotton and cotton blends; they hold moisture in and dry slowly, trapping your body’s heat.
- Cool your pulse points with wristbands, headbands, and neck towels designed to pull moisture away from your body while staying cold to the touch.
- Slather on the sunscreen. Not only does SPF deflect external heat, it prevents your skin from creating its own heat, one of the many uncomfortable side effects of sunburn.
Drink It In
Heat = Sweat (gross) = Loss of Water. Whether exercising indoors or outdoors, weigh yourself beforehand. Do another weigh-in immediately after your workout, and compare the numbers. I bet the second number is lower. Guess what 99% of that lost weight is? Water. Your body, including its ability to moderate its temperature, cannot function properly if it is dehydrated. Don’t even think about another exercise session until all that lost fluid has been replaced. All of it.
- Take preventative measures in the hours before your workout by refraining from drinks known to cause dehydration. This includes alcohol, coffee, and soda.
- Drink tepid liquids — water and sports drinks rich in electrolytes, sodium, and potassium— before and after a workout. Why tepid and not cold? Because a hot body will reject too-cold liquids, causing it to come out the same way it went in. Save the ice cubes until you’ve cooled down and ready for some spa water.
- Eat your liquids. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of water, providing, on average, 20 percent of our daily intake of H2O.
Change Your Routine
Consider summer your off season and use the time to practice new forms of exercise complimentary to your typical regimen. The change will allow you to focus on different muscle groups and/or other skills such as balance or lifting. Not only will you reduce your chances of heat exhaustion, you’ll achieve better overall fitness by the end of the season.
- Stay cool in the pool. There are so many ways to train in the water: laps, diving for weights, doing your regular workout in the pool where the drag of the water works against you.
- Take a hike. Tiffany Champney, a sales lead at the REI in Bailey’s Crossroads, VA, votes hiking as the top substitute for runners and cyclers. “You use a different set of muscles walking across uneven terrain,” she says, “and your typical hike takes you through wooded areas which are cooler because of the shade and because the canopy keeps enough sun out that the ground never has a chance to absorb heat.”
- Get bent into shape. Many places offer yoga al fresco. It may be considered a low impact exercise, but for those who underestimate the difficulty of slow, controlled movement, their aching core will have them convinced the next day.
You can also opt to join a gym this summer. Exercising indoors, with air conditioning and large fans to circulate air, presents immensely fewer risks of overheating than exercising outdoors. For many, though, it is too hard to ignore their love of being outside. If you count yourself among the outdoorsy types, take two weeks to acclimate to rising temperatures by starting with less intense workouts, then slowly ramping up the difficulty as your body adjusts. And yes, I still think sweat is gross, but I also know the important role it plays in keeping a person healthy. So go ahead: sweat some, drink more, and stay cool. Photo Credits: Kulshrax, lululemon, Patrick Feller, and Anna Langova.