It’s always smart to take safety precautions before undertaking strenuous exercise, but when working out in the heat, you need to be even more careful. Overheating can lead to serious consequences such as dehydration and heat illness, and excessive exposure to UV rays can have long term consequences. It’s best to exercise during the cooler part of the day – before 10 am or after 4 pm but sometimes exercising in the middle of the day can’t be avoided. In those cases, pay extra attention to the following tips.
Stay hydrated. Water is your best friend for staying hydrated. Keep track of how much water you drink before, during, and after your workout. In addition to your daily consumption, a good target is least 46 ounces (about 1/3 of a gallon) during your workout. If you will be exercising for longer periods, or if you sweat profusely, consider sipping on a sports drink. Sports drinks are effective for replenishing electrolytes such as sodium and potassium that facilitate muscle contractions.
Pro Tip: Swish the sports drink around your mouth before swallowing it. Swishing has nothing to do with hydration, but it will prepare your body to receive carbohydrates (energy) quicker because the enzymes in the mouth have already detected the sugar in the drink.
Wear light clothing. Clothing protects your skin from the UV rays of the sun. However, it’s important that what you wear is light and breathable to allow sweat to be wicked away from the skin. More importantly, always keep on your clothes. Yes, it may feel like the smarter thing to do if you are overheating is to take off your but this exposes you to harmful UV rays of the sun potentially causing sunburn and in extreme cases, skin cancer.
If you are wearing a hat, it can help to find a shady where you can take a break so that you can remove the hat to allow air to get to your head to provide a cooling effect.
Use water wisely. Not only should drink water during your workouts, but water drained over your head and neck can cool the body. Placing a cooling towel around the neck near the pulse and pouring water on your wrists are effective ways to lower your body’s internal temperature.
Watch for signs of heat illnesses. Signs of heat illness can include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and muscle cramps. Fevers, the inability to sweat, and “goose bumps” on the skin can be signs of heat stroke. If you notice these signs, call 911, and try to cool your body. If you are near an air-conditioned building, go into it and lay on the tile. Drink lots of water and use the technique of pouring water over your head. Ice pops and cold showers also work. The idea is to lower your body temperature.
Acclimate yourself. If you’ll be taking part in an activity that occurs during a hot time of day, and you’re not accustomed to the heat, you’ll need to acclimate yourself to the heat. Begin by exercising outside in small increments and gradually increasing the amount of time that you spend outside. Without acclimating to the heat, you’ll be more susceptible to dehydration and heat illness.
Summer doesn’t mean that you can’t stick with your exercise routine. It just means that you need to take necessary precautions, listen to your body, and watch for warning signs. So let’s get working and have a great workout!