Summer has arrived, and with its sweet smells, lazy afternoons, and longer days comes heat. Just like it doesn’t have to be freezing to experience hypothermia, temperatures don’t have to be soaring to experience heat related illnesses, especially while working out.
Workouts are still possible even when the mercury rises if you take precautions. First, layer your clothing. No, this does not equal the same type of laying we must do in January, however plan for the spaces you’ll be exercising in. Will the temperature drop or rise while you are there – think about elevation or forest conditions – as we move through different types of spaces we may need different types of clothing. Once, you’ve determined if you’ll need a light jacket, short sleeves, socks, boots vs athletic shoes, you will need to chose good products. Materials are not created equal, which is why we do not see many wool socks worn in the summer. Chose materials that move sweat away from your body allowing it to more effectively do its job. Once, again I am amazed at the intelligence of your body, but we will discuss that below. Then look to design. Not all styles are created equal either. Many of us get overwhelmed by the choices, however choosing good design will keep you from packing or carrying loads of stuff. Very important when its your back and legs doing the transporting. Do your homework. If you are uncomfortable using a sales person as your teacher, grab magazines or look to the internet to find the latest and greatest gear. Make sure to check pricing, too. Gear gets expensive and you may be paying more than you need to. Do some comparisons before you settle.
Second, hydrate yourself well. Sweating is important to the body. Sweat is necessary because your body produces water as a by product of our aerobic energy system. If you are going to do work over an extended period of time your body will produce sweat as it uses oxygen to function. Sweat also works as air-conditioner. As your body moves the by-product to the exterior surface, your skin, it creates evaporation, which cools the body. Also, a necessary function during extended work periods because as you create more movement, you create more heat. As your core temperature rises your body will work to maintain its natural set-point, plus its dangerous when your core temperature rises too far. Some of us sweat more than others and there seems to be a genetic link. As your body sweats it will also lose salt. Another important necessity for homeostasis.
When working out during hot weather drink lots of fluids, and make sure to feed your body well. If you are going to be working out over a long period of time, more than 60-90 minutes fuel up with a sports drink or something to replace lost electrolytes. They make great food gear, too. For those of you looking forward to events, you may look to energy products: bars, gels, goos, and other high-glycemic options to sustain your optimal performance. For the average person however, high-tech food choices are not necessary in most cases. Water and nutritious foods are what your body craves to perform most workouts effectively.
Third, think. If the temperature is too high, this is not an excuse button, do something else and workout when it is cooler. Its not a great idea to wear a non-ventilated hat, as sixty percent of your body heat is released through the top of your head.
Plan for your outing so your food and clothing provisions last through the whole workout, and pay attention to how your body responds to heat. We are all different and have different tolerances to heat and humidity. If you are packing children, please remember that their smaller developing bodies respond differently than adults to heat and do not cool the same, so keep them in mind as you pack clothing, plan for stops, and utilize shade throughout the workouts. Sunscreen is a must these days and many brands are designed for workouts. Check labels when you buy. If you do feel any signs of a heat related illness, stop your activity immediately. Temperature related illnesses quickly get worse. Try to find shade, hydrate your body, and do something to cool your body down; i.e. Remove excess clothing, dose yourself with water, rest, etc.
Your workouts do not have to end because the temperature rises. Dress, eat, and plan well and your body and spirit will soar as you discover great ways to get moving!