Makeover Monday: The Hot Body You Don't Want

Raise your hand if you saw this post coming. Onetwothreefourfive—okay, most of you guessed it. Very perceptive. Yes, it’s the Be Careful While Exercising Outside in the Summer Heat post, and it’s so important to me that I’m using it for this week’s Makeover Monday.

I don’t know about you, but I love exercising outdoors. After being cooped up in a cell an office all day, the urge to be outside is compelling. But not compelling enough to risk heat stroke, and that’s a big threat in the summer weather.

Because I value you all and would hate to lose you when we’ve only recently met, I’ll share these tips for exercising in the heat:

Check the weather report first! If the temps are going to be above 90F/32C and/or your humidity is expected to be at or higher than 75%, it might be a good idea to move your workout indoors. Also be mindful of the air quality. In problem areas, the weather forecasters will include any ozone warnings. If you don’t belong to a gym, consider going to a mall to walk or to a multi-story building for some stair-climbing. At minimum, you may want to search out shaded trails or parks for your workout.

Watch the clock. Sun exposure, humidity and ozone issues are most intense midday. You’re better off exercising early in the morning or late evening, before 9 a.m. and after 7 p.m.

Hydrate yourself Despite the rumors, it will not make you go blind. :) Drink more water than normal, and make sure you drink it before, during, and after your workout. If you’re going to be exercising for longer than an hour, you may want to add in one of the sports-type drinks to replace electrolytes. (Last year I drank Smart Water, which supposedly contains minerals needed to restore electrolytes. It could have been a mind game thing, but I swear it made a difference. I’m not sure what I’ll do this year, given my moratorium on bottled water. I’m thinking of giving these a try. Would appreciate any info if any of you have tried them before.)

Dress appropriately. Wear fabrics that contain wicking, which will help pull moisture away from your skin. Light-colored fabrics are best to reflect the sun’s rays. A cap will help shade your face and protect the top of your head. Sunglasses will protect your eyes. Oh, and sunscreen! Lots and lots of waterproof sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher. (Here’s a secret Cammy tip: keep a couple of damp washcloths in the freezer. When you get ready to exercise outdoors, grab a cloth and drape it across the back of your neck. Keep the other cloth for when you return home.)

Mind your transitions. Acclimate yourself to the heat. Start by exercising outdoors for just a few minutes each day and gradually increase your time. When you’ve finished exercising, ease your transition back into the cooler indoor climate. (I grab the remaining freezer cloth and a fresh glass of water, straight from the refrigerator door, and sit on my patio for a good 15 minutes. It’s during this time that I gloat over my success.)

Finally, pay attention to your body. Monitor your heart rate and if your intensity level rises above your target range, slow down or stop exercising for a bit. We rejoice in our improved fitness levels, but during times of extreme heat, it’s a really bad idea to push too hard. Looking on the bright side, you have a built-in excuse for taking an extra break or two. If you have any signs of heat illness (more on that below), stop immediately.

Danger Signs to Watch For
When heat/humidity rise, sweat can’t evaporate as quickly from our bodies, which can lead to overheating.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include weakness, muscle cramps, dehydration, dizziness, confusion, rapid heart rate and headache. If left untreated, things can rapidly go from bad to worse, possibly resulting in heat stroke.

Heat stroke can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include loss of consciousness, vomiting, respiratory distress, and hot, dry skin (your body’s signal that it’s not sweating properly).

Scared straight, I hope? Exercise is important, but exercising wisely is key. Please be safe so that you can be here. I, for one, would miss you if you were gone.

(photo:Andrea Dunlap via Flickr)

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