I’m tippy-toeing my way back to regular exercise. Today I went out for a walk. My intention was to go for a regular old 30-minute walk and stick to the streets that are mostly flat and evaluate the impact on my back.
Well, I felt so good that I kept walking and walking, forgetting completely about the ‘flat street’ intention. This would have been fine if I had brought water with me, but I hadn’t since I hadn’t planned to be out that long. While it wasn’t scorching hot outside, it was very humid and I was a sweaty mess. And a stumbling mess at about the 3 mile mark. Lesson learned! Again!
Way back in July 2008, I posted an article titled The Hot Body You Don’t Want with tips for exercising in the heat. I can’t pass up the opportunity to rerun the tips as a reminder to exercise safely.
If you’re not already doing so, please consider following these tips when you exercise outdoors. I like you, and I don’t want you suffering a heat attack!
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 should aim for 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 might want to add in one of the sports-type drinks to replace electrolytes.
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 not-so-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.
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.