Hello, summer, and hello, sizzling hot days! Anyone who has gone for a run in the heat and humidity knows it’s harder to perform and go the extra distance. As remarkable as the body is designed to regulate our core temperature, (thank you, sweat!) our body needs a little more love and care to help maintain our fitness goals during the summer months.
Explore these heat safety tips, and you’ll see that you don’t have to sideline your workout routine or fitness goals when the heat is high.
KNOW HOW THE BODY OPERATES IN THE HEAT
To stay cool, it’s helpful to be aware of how the body is affected by exercising in the heat. When we increase our activity in average temperatures, our body’s natural cooling systems kick in to help regulate our perfect core temperature. As we move, the body sends more blood to circulate through the skin and away from the muscles, increasing heart rate and perspiration levels. More blood flow closer to the skin allows heat to escape the body more effectively.
But when exercising in above-average temperatures and humidity, the body’s natural cooling systems need your help to maintain the hydration and electrolyte levels they require to work properly. These levels are critical in areas of high humidity, which prevent sweat from readily evaporating, raising your body temperature even higher.
ACCLIMATE YOUR PHYSIOLOGY TO ABOVE-AVERAGE TEMPS
Slowly ramping up your workout intensity so your body can adjust is always a good idea when starting to exercise in the heat. For those participating in activities that require prolonged exposure outside, like marathons, outdoor basketball, or long-distance biking events, it’s important to acclimate your body to help prevent your risk of heat-related illnesses.
Acclimatization is how your body adapts to sustained exposure to high environmental temperatures. According to the CDC, for heat acclimatization to be achieved, daily exposure in hot environments for at least an hour and a half per day is recommended. Complete acclimatization occurs within 7 to 14 days with a gradual increase in exertion. Physiologic benefits associated with acclimatization that help our body’s natural cooling systems function better are:
- Earlier onset sweating
- Decreased sodium concentration in sweat
- Lower resting core temperature
- Expansion of plasma volume
- Increased cutaneous blood flow
- Lower resting heart rate
- Increased expression of heat shock proteins
- Increased resting stroke volume
- Earlier release of aldosterone, which helps regulate salt and water, affects blood pressure
Remember: everybody is unique. If you’re training for a high-intensity event requiring prolonged heat exposure, the expert personal trainers at EōS are here to help you understand heat safety and achieve your fitness goals.
STAY HYDRATED WITH PLENTY OF FLUIDS AND ELECTROLYTES
It’s simple logic that higher temperatures lead to increased perspiration which puts you at higher risk of dehydration. In turn, maintaining hydration will uphold your muscle agility, performance levels, and mental clarity the heat would otherwise compromise.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 4-16 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising. But don’t stop there, be sure to consume fluids pre- and post-workout, especially while exercising in the heat.
Water is best for staying hydrated while exercising in the heat, but sports drinks that contain electrolytes are a great way to preserve hydration if you’re exercising more intensely and sweating over an extended period. The two main electrolytes you’ll want to see on your sports drink label are sodium and potassium because of their ability to rehydrate and replenish your body. EōS carries N2G’s BCAA Recovery in Lemonade or Watermelon flavor to help improve recovery after your workout.
CONSIDER EXERCISING AT DAWN OR DUSK
In North America, the hottest time of the day during the summer months is between 10am and 3pm. Beat the heat and adjust your exercise routine to a time that falls outside this threshold. Besides the cooler temperatures, morning workouts can boost your energy throughout the day, improve mental focus and cognition, and help you sleep better in the evening.
Another heat safety tip? If the summer heat ramps up and you can’t adjust your schedule to complete your high-intensity workout, break up your routine into multiple smaller sessions throughout the day. This will allow your body time to rest, refuel, and still meet your fitness goals. Alternatively, consider exercising indoors to practice heat safety. EōS has plenty of cardio, strength training equipment, and group fitness classes available to help you stay on track.
PROTECT YOUR SKIN – THE BODY’S COOLING SYSTEM
As our largest organ, our skin and subcutaneous tissues are designed to divert warm blood away from your core and keep us cool on the inside. Any damage to your skin or the underlying tissue prevents this natural air conditioner from working correctly.
Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50 and one that is waterproof so that it doesn’t come off once you start sweating. Heat safety goes hand in hand with preventing a sunburn since an increase in blood flow can cause burns to be more painful and blisters to flare as you exercise in the heat.
WEAR CLOTHING THAT LETS YOUR SKIN BREATHE
Ok, this should be a no-brainer, but wearing light colored, loose clothes while exercising in the heat is essential. Remember, the more skin you have exposed to the atmosphere, the easier it is for sweat to evaporate. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
Regarding materials, cotton is a lightweight and breathable material that can help absorb sweat and keep you dry. Sportswear fabrics designed to wick sweat away from the skin are a great and affordable option found at most retailers today.
EXPLORE WATER SPORTS
As previously mentioned, water is your best friend during summer outdoor activities, so why not make it the main event? On sweltering days, try hitting the pool. Swimming is a great, full-body workout that keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the impact stress off your body.
PRACTICE HEAT SAFETY
Listen to your body and if you begin to feel dizzy, nauseous, or tired, give yourself a break and hydrate!
What can start as muscle cramps can extend to more severe and heat-related health conditions such as a heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or extreme dehydration, all of which can prevent you from reaching your fitness goals.
Signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Excessive sweating
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Visual problems
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, the Mayo Clinic recommends immediately stepping out of the heat and stopping your activity. Cool down by placing cold, wet towels or ice packs on your neck, forehead, and under your arms, spray yourself with water, or sit in a tub filled with cold water. Seek medical attention if symptoms continue.
ASK AN EXPERT
Finally, if you need more expert advice about exercising in the heat or heat safety endurance training this summer, you can opt to hire a personal trainer. Whether you’re training for a marathon, triathlon, or just want to get in better shape, there’s no need to derail your fitness goals just because of higher temps. Explore a wide range of classes and knowledgeable personal trainers at the EōS Fitness near you.