The heat of the sun can be merciless during the summer, especially for those who like to exercise outdoors. Whether you are a cyclist who hammers out hours in the saddle or just someone who enjoys a morning jog or an occasional boot camp, there must be some safety precautions you should keep in mind when exercising outdoors in comparatively high temperatures. Heat stresses the body & causes responses that could be precarious when left untreated. Keep your body cool & your workouts safe by being mindful of a few things, such as exercise times, hydration, nutrition & clothing.
Human body’s Response to Heat
Your core temperature rises when you exercise in the heat & your body responds with its natural cooling mechanism: sweat. As sweat evaporates from your skin, it actually, helps to reduce your body temperature. Prolonged exposure to the heat can result in excessive sweating & dehydration, which in turn can cause you to develop heat-related complication such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps & the most dangerous — heat stroke. Luckily, there are a number of preventative measures that you can take to avoid getting sick in the summer.
Pay Attention to Hydration and Nutritional Needs
The single most important element to safely exercising in the heat is hydration. When you are planning to train in heat, take a preventive strike against dehydration by beginning to take water an hour or two before your exercise begins. During exercise, strive to drink about 7 to 10 ounces of liquid every 20 minutes. Mr. Joy Von Werder, Florida-based USAT triathlon coach & owner of Train to Tri coaching, is very familiar with the cruelty of outdoor training in warmer months. “In the hot summer, we lose a large amount of fluid. So it is important to replace those with electrolytes; the liquids containing potassium, magnesium and sodium,” recommended by Von Werder. Your nutritional needs also increase during exercise or daily workouts, especially in the heat. Vitamins play a vital role in energy production & since they are often lost through sweating, it may be a good idea for those who regularly train in hot temperatures to supplement with a multivitamin.
What Should You Drink?
Sports drinks are meant to aid in hydration & replace essential nutrients lost during intense exercise. If you are just going for a morning jog or doing less-hard work out in the gym, water is fine. But, for workouts lasting more than an hour or taking place in extreme condition, a sports beverage will help your body replace sodium & other electrolytes lost through excessive sweating. Sports drinks basically help prevent dehydration because they are more flavorful — many people are more likely to keep on sipping a sports drink than plain water because of taste.
Wear Clothing suitable for Exercise in the Heat
Taking exercise in cotton t-shirt is a thing of the past. Today, the market is flooded with high-tech clothing & fabrics to help you stay cool in the heat. Wear light-weight, light-colored clothes made of sweat wicking materials like Drymax, CoolMax or Smartwool to keep from becoming a hot, soggy mess. Keep in mind that, sweat cools your body as it evaporates from your skin, thus clothing that keeps sweat trapped on your body will interfere with this natural cooling process. There are also special materials available that block a portion of the harmful UV radiation which can lead to sunburn & overheating. These fabrics are rated by an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). Like SPF used in sunscreen, UPF measures the degree to which fabric disrupts UV rays, ranging from 15 (good) to 50+ (excellent). Although these fabrics can help prevent sunburn, it is still very important to wear & reapply a sweat-proof sunscreen every 90 minutes, according to Von Werder.
To prevent overheating outside, give your body the chance to adapt to the hot summer environments. If you live in a dry, cool region, the heat & humidity of other areas will come as a shock to your system. Take exercise in these environments over a couple of weeks by slowly increasing your exercise intensity & duration. If possible, save your highest intensity training sessions for cool months. For example, if you are planning to run a marathon, choose a race that takes place in early summer, fall or, winter. This will allow you to complete your hardest training in the cooler spring & fall months.
Create a Backup Plan
On mid-day when the heat is intolerable for your pre-planned workout, then you must have a backup plan that either shortens your workout or takes it inside. When the heat is too much, “some people prefer to exercise indoors & take part in an indoor cycling or spinning class, or even swim,” says Von Werder. An indoor exercise may seem boring, but you will be able to train harder & longer without putting yourself at risk for developing heat-related complications. Last, make sure you discuss your medical risks with your doctor. If the situation leaves you prone to overheating, plan your exercise schedule accordingly.