I don’t like to brag, but I’m becoming quite the heat warrior. Over the past week or so, I’ve spent about 75% of my waking hours outdoors working on various projects. Granted, the humid part of summer–the OMGIcantbreathe part–hasn’t really arrived, but I’m still considering this a victory. Especially considering that, as a general rule, I don’t like to sweat.
One thing that’s helping is that I have my trusty timer to remind me to take a breather every 25 minutes, even if it’s just long enough to sip some water or iced tea and pat my face and neck with a cool cloth. So far, that’s all I need to recharge the battery and tackle the next thing. Fortunately, I think my “next things” are dwindling. I should have them wrapped up by the time the worst of the heat/humidity gets here.
As I was out on my sweaty early morning walk today, I realized I hadn’t posted my annual tips for exercising in the heat. Long-time outdoor exercisers know these things, but if you’re new to the game, as I was just a few short years ago, it might help to know these things. Feel free to share your own tips or lessons learned in the comments! [Stand-by for recycled content.]
Check the weather report first! Rules of thumb: if temps are going above 90F/32C and/or humidity 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! 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. Fabrics that contain wicking 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.)
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).
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