Image courtesy of mapichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of mapichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

August has arrived, and for those of us in the northern hemisphere that means the rays of summer sun are full upon us.  Hot days and heat waves, often accompanied by the urge to swing in the hammock or lounge surfside, need to be balanced with an interest in moving more. Besides, now is a great time to establish exercise habits for the fall season ahead.

Warm weather workouts have their own set of considerations however, and to help keep you healthy and motivated to keep up the good work here are some tips for playing safe in the heat:

1)  Time it right. Avoid the exertions of hard exercise in the hottest part of the day.  If you are in a climate-controlled environment such as the gym, you have wiggle room with this one. Still, be aware of the outside heat, which seems to have a way of sneaking indoors, especially via humidity.

2)  Have some respect for the humidity.  One of the ways your body dissipates heat is via evaporative cooling from the skin.  When the air is already heavy with moisture, there’s nowhere for that sweat beading up on your skin to go, easily overheating your body.  Amp down the intensity under conditions such as these, and be especially attentive to replenishing fluids by drinking water as your body will work overtime to produce sweat in a humidity-thwarted attempt to cool you down.

3)  Stay hydrated.  Even if the humidity isn’t high, your body can lose up to a quart of water during exercise, depending on the weather and the intensity of your workout.  Take a preemptive strike by drinking plenty of fluids in the 24 hours before your exercise bout, and keep a water bottle handy so that you can sip frequently.  This makes water easier to assimilate than waiting until you have already lost a lot of water and chug it down to make up the difference. According to the American Council on Exercise:

  • Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours before the start of exercise.
  • Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
  • Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.

4)  Break it up.  Consider doing intermittent bouts of exercise rather than longer sessions that can overheat your body in the hot weather.  As reported in Fit Quickies:  5 Minute Targeted Body Shaping Workouts, research tells us that we can obtain just as much benefit with fewer, shorter sessions as with one longer workout.  In some research instances, as a matter of fact, the shorter segments resulted in greater loss of waist measurement over a 10-week period, indicating improved body composition.

5)  Dress for the weather.  This is where layered clothing comes in handy because you can disrobe layer-by-layer as needed to avoid overheating.  Clothing with fabulous fabrics that wick moisture are easy to find – no need to stay wrapped in a damp sweaty t-shirt throughout your run or beach volleyball game.  Whatever you wear, it should be light in color to reflect the heat, especially on your torso.

6)  Use the barrier method.  Of course, we’re talking sun shield here.  It never fails to surprise me when I see someone out on a walk – or run, no less – in the full heat and sun glare of a summer afternoon with no shirt, no hat – and sometimes even no sunglasses.  Protection from the rays will protect your skin from the sun and protect you from the enervating effects of being out in it without a shield.  Sunglasses, vented caps, and moisture-wicking light-colored shirts provide skin-protective barriers.

7)  Wear sunscreen:  Even if you are covered with shirt, hat, sunglasses and shorts, your exposed skin still needs a coverup.  Yes, you need your 10 – 15 minutes of sun exposure for manufacturing Vitamin D, but when you are out and about with a workout, no doubt your time in the elements will extend beyond a quarter of an hour.  Sunblock is also a good choice, and comes in SPF factors of up to 100.

8)  Don’t expect a personal best.  Peak performances don’t usually happen in peak heat conditions.  Entertain a realistic attitude when it comes to setting a new record on anything athletic when the weather is hot.

9)  Pass on the sugar water.  Supplement marketers will have you convinced that if you don’t slam back their fluorescent beverage you run the risk of collapsing into a electrolyte-depleted heap.  While in an emergency these drinks can be helpful,  a healthy vegan diet naturally supplies your body with the electrolytes that can be lost in warm weather workouts. For extra help, you can add juices such as lemon, orange, and coconut water – and/or  unrefined salts to water – to do the trick.

10)  Work your way up.  It can take several days to acclimate your body to new weather conditions.  Respect this period of adaptation and gauge the time and intensity of your workouts accordingly.   

Have you a helpful tip for playing safe in the summer heat?  Please add them in comments below.