Summertime’s here and temperatures are starting to top out in the low 90’s in our area. If you exercise outdoors like me, you may need to alter your fitness workout routine to protect yourself from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration which are real possibilities when the temperatures are greater than 70 degrees with humidities in the 70% and above range. How can you best alter your fitness workout routine to prevent heat related problems? Here are some suggestions to keep you active, yet safe:
1. Hydration is critical.
You should start hydrating yourself at least 12 hours before your workout. This will ensure you don’t enter into your fitness workout routine with a fluid deficit. When you start exercising, you should drink water at least every 15 minutes. Remember you also lose salt and other electrolytes when you exercise, making it wise to replace some of your fluids with Gatorade or another brand of sports drink. Avoid caffeine within 24 hours of exercising since it acts as a diuretic to promote fluid lose.
2. Choose your hot weather workout time wisely.
Avoid being out in the hot sun between the hours of 10:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. The best times to exercise will be early in the morning or in the later evening when temperatures are more moderate and the humidity is lower.
3. Dress light and comfortably.
Choose clothing made of modern wicking materials such as Cool Max which actually breathe and direct heat away from your body. Adidas makes a nice line of clothing using this cooling fiber.
4. Know the symptoms of heat related illness.
Signs of heat exhaustion include elevations in body temperature, headache, nausea, dizziness, and lightheadedness. A more serious form of heat illness is heat stroke which includes symptoms such as high body temperature, red, flushed skin, confusion, rapid pulse, and difficultly breathing. This condition can progress rapidly to seizures, coma, and even death. If you start to experience symptoms of heat stroke, it’s important to seek medical attention right away as this can be a life threatening condition. If you experience mild symptoms of heat exhaustion, stop your fitness workout routine immediately and start replacing fluid and, if possible, spray your body with cool water.If symptoms don’t improve in 20 minutes, call your doctor.
5. Wear a sunscreen.
If you experience a sunburn from unprotected sun exposure, you will not only damage your skin but you’ll experience additional problems with temperature regulation. Apply a sunscreen with an SPF of15 or greater every two hours and you can avoid both consequences.
6. Be moderate in your workout goals on hot days.
When temperatures and humidity are high, it’s not the time to maximize your workout. This is particularly true if you haven’t acclimated to exercising in the heat. Cut your workout goals back just a bit. Remember, you’re going to burn more calories exercising in hot weather anyway.
7. Consider other exercise options when the temperatures climb above 80 degrees.
When temperatures rise above 80 degrees, exercise can put a serious strain on your system. Combine this with humidity and you’re a real setup for a heat related illness. Consider taking your outdoor fitness routine to a local mall that has air conditioning. Modify your workout to do a fast walk. If you want a more intense workout, combine fast walking with stair climbing at the mall. If you belong to an exercise club, this would be a good time to go.
8. Acclimate yourself to the heat slowly before attempting longer warm weather workouts.
Spend time outside in the warm weather doing short periods of light exercise for two weeks before attempting your full workout under warm and humid conditions.Your body needs time to acclimate to the higher temperatures.
Hopefully, these suggestions will help you complete your fitness workout routine in a safe and effective manner. Pamper your body a bit more during these hot and humid days in order to avoid heat related injury and illness.