Working Out in the Heat: What You Need to Know
Just like a good workout, summer weather can be enough to leave you sweaty and tired.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t justify foregoing your gym sesh or avoiding your usual outdoor exercise routine. Summer exercise is unavoidable.
Since the sun has no intention of disappearing for the next couple of months, it’s important to adjust your workout routine to ensure a safe and healthy summer.
Heat and your body
First of all, think of your body as a giant air conditioning system.
When you’re working up a sweat, your body cools itself by sending more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn speeds up your heart rate.
Combined with a burning sun, your body starts to really feel the stress, and a rising humidity means that your sweat doesn’t evaporate from your body as easily, pushing your temperature even higher. Under normal circumstances, your body wouldn’t find this a problem, but when the heat is here to stay, your skin, blood vessels and perspiration levels struggle to work together efficiently.
If you’re not replacing your lost fluids, you may find yourself at risk of a heat-related illness like:
Heat cramps: This happens when your muscles contract… painfully. Even if your body temperature remains normal, your affected muscles may be firm to the touch – and not just as a result of your workout.
Heat exhaustion: Your body thinks you’re in the Sahara Desert, and it’s not afraid to send your temperature soaring as high as 40 degrees. Combine with nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness and clammy skin and you’re left feeling less than refreshed.
Heatstroke: When your body temperature goes over 40 degrees, your body may stop sweating to help cool itself, despite your skin being hot. This is heatstroke – and you should probably get yourself to the hospital, as this requires immediate medical attention.
Be aware of the warning signs
If you’re exercising in the summer heat, it’s important you watch for signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. These include:
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Visual problems
Summer workout tips
When exercising in the summer, try to stick to the following:
Keep hydrated and consume at least half a litre of fluids two hours before you work out. During your workout, try to drink around 200ml every 20 minutes. If you’re exercising strenuously for more than an hour, pair your water with a sports drink to replenish any essential electrolytes, vitamins and minerals.
Avoid the hottest time of day
Get up and active before 9am or after 6pm – the thought of running under the direct summer sun is deterring enough, not to mention putting yourself at risk of a heat-related illness.
Although it’s tempting to wear as little as possible during your summer workout, you may be doing more harm than good. Breathable fabrics and loose clothing made from natural fibres assists your body in cooling itself, so opt for appropriate active wear, paired with a hat, sunscreen and comfortable shoes.
Take a break
Finally, it’s important to take rest periods when you’re out and about – even if you don’t think you’re overdoing it. Seek out some shade and give yourself regular breaks - and reward yourself with an iced coffee after it’s all over.