Don’t Sweat Heat’s Havoc

Sharon Rekieta, Fitness and Wellness Director - 8th July 2013

We live in the South, so it’s okay to acknowledge (complain?) that summers can be miserable!  It’s hot; we sweat.  The humidity rises; our energy falls.  And, if we’re uncomfortable in the short time required to exit our air-conditioned car, walk across a parking lot, and enter an air-conditioned building, how can we possibly be expected to exercise outdoors for any length of time?  Subsequently, when the heat arrives, many choose to abandon their fitness pursuits and wait for the first cool front.

However, maybe you are just now achieving consistency and you would prefer to maintain a regular routine or perhaps the extended daylight and relaxed pace of summertime seems ideal for beginning an exercise program.  Do you really have to wait until fall?  Isn’t there a safe and comfortable way to acclimate gradually to an increasing heat index?  Yes, and with the following hints, you can continue exercising outdoors throughout the summer.

First, realize that you may have to decrease the effort (intensity) or the length of time (duration) of your workout.  Even elite athletes curtail their training when faced with heat and/or humidity; so it’s good practice for recreational fitness enthusiasts to follow suit. 

Second, if possible, avoid the blazing sun by exercising in the early morning or early evening or choosing shady areas or tree-lined trails.  If it is not convenient to avoid the sun, wear a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sweat-resistant sunscreen. 
Fabric can make a big difference in comfort—not only are moisture-wicking materials lightweight, they also prevent your shirts and shorts from sticking to your body and allow the sweat to evaporate faster so you feel cooler. 

Finally, carry a water bottle and drink from it frequently.  A good plan is to consume 4 to 6 ounces every 15 minutes.  If your workout lasts longer than 45 minutes or if you sweat profusely, water alone may not provide adequate hydration.  In those instances, an electrolyte fluid replacement drink (for example, Gatorade or PowerAde) is necessary to replace minerals lost through sweat.  Although drinking the water is your first priority, if you have some to spare or if you are fortunate enough to pass water fountains, sprinkle some water on the back of your neck or the top of your head—you’ll enjoy a few refreshing seconds of relief!

Keep the above hints in mind while exercising outdoors and you can safely stay fit while surviving the dog days of summer.