While summer offers lots of daylight and sunshine for exercising outdoors, the season also brings dangerous heat and humidity for many people. Exercising during the hot summer months can put you at risk for dehydration and heat-related illness like heat exhaustion and stroke. But that doesn't mean you must stay indoors during the beautiful summer months. Summertime is an excellent opportunity to get outdoors and stay active; the key is simply doing it safely. Here are ten tips to maximize your summer workouts, meet your fitness goals, and stay healthy.
1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
This might sound basic, but it's so vital that it's worth addressing first. Staying hydrated is essential when working out on hot days. Besides the inherent dangers of dehydration, it also increases the risk of heat-related illnesses because it makes it harder for your body to stay cool and maintain a safe body temperature.
As a result, it's essential to drink plenty of water before, during, and after working out. There are several factors impacting your hydration needs, but good guidelines to follow are:
- 15-20 ounces 2-3 hours before exercising
- 8 ounces 15-30 minutes before exercising
- 8 ounces every 20 minutes during your workout
- 8 ounces 15-30 minutes after your workout
In most instances, water is the best drink to stay hydrated. However, if you're working out for more than an hour, it can help to supplement your water intake with some sips of a sports drink.
2. What Time Is It?
It's always a good idea to check the heat index (not just the temperature) before you work outside. The heat index considers the humidity in the air and indicates how hot it is. In addition, using a weather app can also give you updates on the air quality in your area. For example, the Weather Channel has a unique Go Run Forecast feature in its app. It can help you to optimize your run by providing information on factors like cloud cover, wind, and humidity. Click here for further details.
A good rule of thumb is to schedule your summer runs in the morning or evening when the weather is cooler, and the air quality is better. When this isn't possible, you should consider working out indoors. As an added benefit, cross-training activities such as spinning or circuit training can help avoid common running injuries.
3. Run with Friends
Joining a running club is an excellent year-round tip, especially in the summer when groups tend to be much more active. This is a great way to meet new friends and stay motivated. Additionally, should anything happen, there's safety in numbers.
However, if you prefer to run by yourself, you should always let a friend or family members know your plans beforehand.
4. What Are You Wearing?
When running in the summer, the least comfortable feeling is wearing clothing that isn't breathable. Ensure you're wearing moisture-wicking clothing to help you stay dry and keep your body temperature regulated. Look for lightweight, loose clothing made of synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, bamboo, cotton, or polypropylene.
In addition to choosing the suitable fabric, wear lighter colors to absorb less heat.
5. Take it Easy and Acclimate to the Heat
If you're not used to working out in heat or humidity, give your body plenty of time to adjust. This means starting slow and gradually adding to the length and intensity of your workouts. It usually takes one to two weeks for your body to acclimate to strenuous activity in the heat, so give yourself time and don't push too hard while adjusting.
6. Never Forget Sunscreen
Protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays with a good, waterproof sunscreen that has an SPF of a minimum of 15 and offers broad-spectrum protection for safeguarding against UV and UVB rays. We recommend trying stick formulations for faces because this avoids sunscreen running into your eyes. If you are running longer than two hours, you must reapply.
7. Understand the Signs and Symptoms of Overheating
Be familiar with the signs and symptoms of heat problems to recognize them within yourself or in a running partner.
Here are common warning signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion that you should know and pay attention to:
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Confusion or irritability
- Low blood pressure
- Vision problems
If you experience these symptoms, stop exercising immediately, get out of the heat, lower your body temperature, and hydrate.
8. Don't Push Too hard
During a run or a race, consider the weather conditions, and don't try and push yourself further than ever. Brutal heat and humidity can take a toll quickly. Focus on the effort, not the pace. Slow down, take walking breaks, and save strenuous efforts for cooler weather.
We lose a lot of our body heat through our heads. It makes sense during winter or colder temps to cover up and wear a hat. However, don't cover your entire head in the summer with a snug or thick fabric. Consider a visor with a comfortable lid and breathable mesh.
Running causes the core body temperature to rise, which is exacerbated in hot and humid conditions. Pre-cooling is a technique to slowly lower your body temperature before a run, which helps extend your running time before hitting a critical temperature threshold to stop.
Ideally, implement a pre-cooling strategy 10 to 20 minutes before a run or during a warmup. In a perfect world, runners would use a cooling vest; however, cooling vests are expensive, so here are some quick and cost-effective ways to try pre-cooling:
- Freeze a paper cup of an electrolyte drink, or purchase a few freeze pops. 10 to 20 minutes before your next run in the heat, eat the freeze pop or electrolyte slushy and head out. While it won't cool down your entire body like a vest, you will notice benefits during the run.
- Grab a few hand or small bath towels, dampen them, then place them in freeze overnight and put them on your neck, head, and back 10-15 minutes before you head out. It will be shockingly cold at first, but if you put them back in the freezer once you return, you will undoubtedly appreciate it.
Summer is a wonderful time to get outside, be active, and stay fit. Yet heat-related illnesses can be dangerous, so we hope we've been able to assist you in staying safe and healthy during the hottest months.