Remember how I mentioned that it might be a little tougher to keep up with running as the weather warms up? Well, this week it is happening! It did hit 100* here a few weeks ago, but then things cooled right off again – unusual for this time of year and a lucky break to enjoy spring a little longer.
As things heat up this week, we’ll be heading in to full-blown desert summer. To give some tips for safe and effective summer exercise, Neil Long, MS, CPT, desert transplant from the mountains, is back! Neil’s awesome advice is below!
Early to bed, early to rise!
It is obviously not as warm in the mornings, even during the hottest summer months. It is wise to wake up early if you plan to take advantage of these cooler temps, but did you know the time you go to bed can affect how you feel in the heat? Sleep deprivation can decrease your body’s ability to cool itself, making you more prone to heat related illness. Do your best to get a full night’s rest before heading out for your cardio in the AM hours!
Locals get it, but visitors can adapt!
Those of you who grew up in the Valley of the Sun might laugh when your friends start to complain about the heat in April. Although people who moved from cooler climates may never believe that triple digits “isn’t that bad,” it is possible to acclimate to the heat. When adjusting to exercising in heat, be aware of the symptoms of heat illness, and always drink plenty of fluids! It will likely take a couple of weeks to feel the benefits, but stick with it and you will be underestimating the temperature in no time.
Drink water or sports drinks, not soda (or anything else)
Hydration is the most important factor when being active in the heat, so it is very important to take in fluids before, during, and after you exercise. The type of fluids you are drinking make a huge difference, especially since alcohol and caffeine can actually decrease your hydration status! Before you exercise make sure you are hydrated by inspecting the color of your urine to make sure it is closer to clear than yellow. If you haven’t peed lately, you are probably not hydrated enough and need a BIG glass of water (or two). Drinking cold water or Gatorade while exercising will not only taste great, but can also help drive down your body temperature. It is important to maintain your hydration after you exercise to prevent cramps later in the day.
Too hot out for you? Try something new
There may be some days where you just don’t feel like battling the sun to get your workout in. The summer months might be a good opportunity to try a new activity. Swimming is an obvious choice, but be sure to keep your heart rate up in the pool, and don’t spend all your time on the lounge chairs. Group exercise classes at a gym can be fun and provide a new challenge when it’s too dang hot to go outside. Your local fitness center likely keeps the A/C on high so it can be a great place to visit and try some of the weight machines or cardio eqipment. Even finding a shady place in the park to do some bodyweight exercises may feel better than walking or jogging in the sun.
It’s a dry heat, usually
Here in the desert we tend to have low humidity. This not only makes it feel cooler, it also allows your body to remove heat more effectively through sweating. The body is cooled when sweat evaporates, so dry air is better at removing sweat (and heat) from the body. Humidity makes this more difficult, so be aware of the humidity as well as the temperature before you head out for your exercise. Check the chart below to assess your risk for heat illness.
From National Oceanic and Atmospheric Institute (Online)
Coris, E.E., Ramirez, A.M., & Van Durme, D.J., (2004). Heat illness in athletes: The dangerous combination of heat, humidity and exercise. Sports Medicine, 34(1), 9-16.
McDermott, B. P. (2011). Safe exercise in the heat of summer. Pediatrics for Parents, 27(5/6), 16.
Thank you Neil!