Everybody knows that although summer means relaxing and having fun, the beginning of summer establishes the dreaded "Bikini Season." In addition to maintaining strict diets, people often adhere to extreme exercise routines in order to maintain a beach-ready bod. With a goal to lose weight and look great, the serious health risks brought on by exercising in heat are often ignored. Take a look at these ten ways to make sure you stay healthy during your summer workouts.
1. Stay Hydrated
Unanimous among medical professionals, drinking water is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Even though water is critical to maintaining proper balance and function within the body, most people are often uneducated about the correct amount of water their bodies need. The Institute of Medicine recommends about 3 liters of beverage intake for men, and 2.2 liters for women. Due to increased perspiration from the summer heat, it is important to realize that your body will need a great deal more - increasing the risk of dehydration. If you plan on exercising outdoors this summer, make sure to drink water throughout the day, rather than just when you will be exerting yourself. A helpful tip: by the time you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated - it is your body's way of telling you to drink water! Especially during the summer, try keeping a water bottle with you at all times as a reminder to hydrate.
When you don't provide your body with enough water, you put yourself at risk for dehydration and other heat-related illnesses. If you plan out working out in the heat for more than a half hour, take care of yourself and plan your fluid intake. In order to prevent dehydration drink 8-12 oz of water about 20-30 minutes before your workout. With a longer routine, continue to hydrate by 610 oz every 30 minutes of exertion. If your workout exceeds an hour, it is important to replace your electrolytes also. Rather than consuming unnecessary sugar and calories with a sports drink, opt for foods that contain the electrolytes and nutrients your body needs.
2. Plan Your Workout
If you plan on exercising outdoors during the hot summer months, the temperature and humidity can often be unpredictable. If met with the sudden urge to go on a run, take a minute establish to plan for your workout. Before heading out into the brutal heat, make sure to check online weather forecasts and heat alerts. With this extra research, you will be able to see what the weather will be like for the entire duration of the workout, rather than assuming the weather won't change at all. Knowing the challenges your workout holds is very important tool, enabling you to choose an outfit, pace, and routine suited for the environment. In addition to online resources, one way to draw conclusions about the outside changes in temperature is to assess the previous day. Reflecting on your mental notes regarding strange weather patterns will allow you to personally decide whether or not the weather is comfortable to exercise in.
This extra preparation will not only help organize your day, but will improve your health. It is important to understand how hard your heart works during exercise, since blood is primarily responsible for cooling the body. When active, the heart works hard to pump blood to the working muscles during exercise. The stress put on the heart during this process dramatically increases when heat is an additional factor. Due to increased in sweat production and a spike in body temperature, it is necessary for the heart to work overtime to prevent overheating. Medical professionals advise to postpone outdoor exercise if the temperature is about 80° F and the humidity is above 80%. Understand that planning ahead doesn't mean you will be in the correct mindset to adjust to the weather; but means that you will be able to make informed decisions that will protect your heart.
3. Protect Your Skin
During the summer, dealing with the heat and humidity is often the number one concern of athletes. When this occurs, individuals tend to forget about the sun itself, and the damage it can do to your body. Sunscreen application is typically avoided, due to the theory that "sunscreen clogs up your pores as you sweat, which will lead to overheating and poor performance." Scientifically tested several times within the last century, this hypothesis is indeed false. In fact, Declan Connolly Ph.D. conducted an experiment in 1994 which tested the effect sunscreen has within the body chemistry of cyclists both indoor and outdoor. After these two groups exercised, Connolly measured the skin temperature of the cyclists, and discovered that there was an average decrease of skin temperature in the group wearing the sunscreen - leading to the belief that sunscreen could improve heat loss by "wetting the skin" similar to sweat. With this evidence, we now know the truth and realize the true importance of sunscreen during outdoor performance.
With extreme temperatures during the summer, it is important to wear clothes that allow your body to breathe and cool itself. The problem with shedding those extra layers is that more of your bare skin is exposed to the sun. Getting some Vitamin C is healthy once in a while, but lack of UV protection will lead to sunburns. Although sunburns are quite common, they should not be ignored. When the sun damages the skin, the body's natural ability to cool itself weakens. In order to prevent both short and long-term skin damage, it is important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a high sun protection factor (SPF). If you do end up with a sunburn, take a break from the sun while it heals. With minor sunburns, use aloe, cool water, and over-the-counter pain relievers to relieve some pain; however, if the burn is severe, blisters, or makes you sick, consult a doctor right away.
4. Check Your Medications
Before exposing your body to extreme heat, it is extremely important to read every warning and potential side effect your medications. Some medications are known to cause symptoms that react poorly with heat, so it is important to understand your personal situation. Certain psychiatric medications, stimulants, decongestants, recreational drugs, and other medications are know to put the body at risk during hot weather. Medications such as these have the potential to cause the body to overheat by either reducing blood flow to the skin (necessary for sweating), reducing sweating altogether, or by increasing dehydration. If taking these types of medications, find ways to compensate for these side effects in order to avoid overheating and severe dehydration. If you believe you are suffering from either of these conditions, seek medical help immediately.
On the other hand, some medications may cause users to burn more easily, resulting in a photosensitivity reaction. Photosensitivity reactions range from mild to severe, result from the skin's decrease in UV tolerance when taking certain drugs, and are either classified as phototoxic or photoallergic. A phototoxic reaction causes tenderness and redness usually 2-6 hours after being in the sun, and is most common among patients. Photoallergenic reactions typically appears 5-10 days after exposure to the sun (specifically ultraviolet A), and causes the skin to itch and scale. If taking medication that puts you at risk, be sure to take preventative steps to insure your well-being, and be sure to contact your doctor if you believe you are suffering from a photosensitivity reaction. Do not stop taking any prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor.
Check with the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center Health Alert to see if you are at risk.
5. Seek the AC
Although some athletes prefer to train cross-country, the easiest way to avoid the negative effects of the heat is to simply take your workout inside. Exercising indoors provides access to cold water and a comfortable environment. Reducing the stress that heat puts on your body during a workout protects your heart from overworking. When you take care of your body, you are able to push yourself and challenge your athletic ability effectively and safely. Even if you don't mind the heat, it is beneficial to workout inside every so often in order for you to allow your body to recover from the brutal weather. If worried about the effectiveness of your workout, there are plenty of indoor options that are proven calorie-burners.
Many people steer away from indoor exercise because of typical gym stereotypes -- the visualization of room full of treadmills isn't appealing to anyone. When people believe this generalization, they aren't taking advantage of the variety gyms and fitness clubs across the country that make exercise fun! For example, "Pole Fitness" has been quickly rising in popularity, and you can find studios that offer summer memberships for pole fitness classes. This workout combines circus skills with dance and fitness, and burns an average of 350 calories per hour! There are plenty of other unique forms of exercise that have the potential to add some excitement to your workouts. During the summer, try taking classes at a variety of studios/clubs/gyms that specialize in unique and effective fitness styles when you need to take your workout indoors!
6. Dress For Success
Whether you are walking your dog, jogging, or cycling, what you wear can be a huge factor contributing to your risk for heat exhaustion. For starters, wear the least amount of clothing possible (and legally allowed in public), make sure it is lightweight, has vents/mesh for ventilation, and is light in color. Thick, dark fabrics absorb heat, and increases your body temperature when it rests against your skin. The additional heat can lead to cutting your workout short, or even cause serious health complications. In addition to clothing, do your best to wear a hat and sunglasses in order to protect your face and eyes from harsh UV rays. It is important to know the best types of materials for exercise in order to let your body cool itself off so you can get the best out of your workout.
When shopping for summer workout clothes, there are some things you should know. The best choice is material that advertises "moisture-wicking and quick-drying." These fabrics are created to allow ventilation and absorb sweat, and can be found at almost every athletic department store. In addition, make sure to avoid training in cotton. Cotton is the worst material to wear during a summer workout because it absorbs your sweat and clings to your skin, preventing any type of ventilation. Also add some accessories to your shopping cart, such as hats and sunglasses, to protect the sensitive parts of your body from sun burn.
7. Know the Warning Signs
During the summer, the body's natural ability to adjust to heat is often compromised. The results of prolonged exposure to humidity, fluid loss, or extreme heat causes serious health complications.It is important know the understand the potential risks of exercising in heat, and you should be able to recognize symptoms early enough to take action. If symptoms are left untreated, the illness will become more severe and emergency medical attention will be necessary. When exposed to heat, especially while exercising, take note if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms: muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, weakness, fatigue, headache, extensive sweating, dizziness or lightheadedness, confusion, irritability, visual problems, increased heart rate, or low blood pressure. If suffering from any of these, seek medical help immediately.
Although knowing the warning signs are important, there is only so much you can do if you are the victim of heat-related illnesses. During the summer, run in public areas that are regularly visited and will provide you with options for help if necessary. If you prefer to jog or hike in more secluded areas, find a workout partner who understands the warning signs as well. The choice to workout with someone else provides you with an emergency lifeline who will be able to provide assistance if needed. The most important thing to do during your summer workouts is use common sense. It is necessary to use logical thinking to take all risk factors into account when planning your workouts...the motto "No Pain, No Gain!" does not exist during the summer.
8. Maintain a Proper Diet
When training in heat, do not only rely on water to keep you hydrated. As an athlete, it is important to understand that healthy diet is just as significant to your hydration and heat tolerance as drinking water. During the summer, consume foods that are largely made of water - most fruits and vegetable are 80% - 98% water by weight! The best choices include cucumbers (which has the highest water content of any solid food), iceberg lettuce, celery, radishes, and numerous similar produce choices! By making the effort to add these types of foods into your diet, you can eat up to 20% of your water needs a day! By making these healthy choices, you will be better suited for those hot summer days!
While picking foods that hydrate you, it is also important to eliminate foods and drinks that will dehydrate you from your diet! Consult online articles written by dietitians for ways to cut out dehydrating foods from your diet. To start, avoiding sugary drinks, alcohol, white asparagus, Bouillon cubes, friend foods, popcorn, and other products high in salt and sugar. The ingredients in these foods cause the cells in the body to shrink, leaving them very dehydrated. When your cells dehydrate, they cling on to any moisture they can find, increasing your water retention. Water retention will often make you thirsty, bloated, and groggy -- the worst way to be when it's beach time!
9. Get Acclimated
Even the most fit athletes face challenges in the heat; however, some athletes still prefer to train in the brutal environment. When training for an outdoor event or competition, it is smart to train during the hot weather, because it will prepare your body for any possible situation during the actual event. In fact, several experiments provide significant evidence proving that training in intense conditions (i.e. heat) improves an athlete's athletic performance when placed in a favorable situation. This prevents you from pushing your body past its limits if you're body isn't used to the hot weather and humidity. Acclimating to the summer weather also reduces your chances of injury or heat-related illness.
If you decide to exercise outdoors this summer, don't be discouraged! Heat acclimation is possible and easy, when approached the correct way. When beginning, make sure to customize your workout in order to introduce your body to temperature and humidity. Instead of going overboard, try splitting up your workout, lowering your intensity, or shortening your routine while you get used to the additional stress being placed on the body. In order to train effectively, plan a workout that will allow you to raise your core body temperature for a total of 60 minutes. Scientists concluded that it takes an average of 5-10 days of heat training like this for the body to get used to the heat. Training in extreme conditions can be uncomfortable or challenging, but if you take care of your body and are acclimate safely, you will surely reap the benefits.
10. Avoid the Mid-day Heat Wave
Another tip to avoid extreme heat is to avoid working out in the middle of the day. The sun reaches its highest point at noon, not only making it the hottest part of the day, but also when the suns rays are the most intense. If you aren't training for an event, Mayo Clinic advises to avoid outdoor workouts between 10am - 3pm - usually the hottest part of the day. The position of the sun during those hours will increase your risk for sunburn and other heat-related illnesses. If the weather forecast says the next day will be blazing hot, choose to workout in the morning. On the other hand, if you plan on having an intense sweat-filled workout, wait until after 6pm in order to reduce stress on your body.
If absolutely necessary to schedule your workouts during the middle of the day, choose your route wisely. Places with plenty of shade or by the water are an average of 10° cooler than those in direct sun. If your only option is a jog during the midday heat, is important to avoid changing extremes quickly. After your body gets used to a certain environment, it needs to adjust to the next at its own pace. For example, moving quickly from the intense outdoor heat into an ice cold shower can potentially harm the body. Without time to prepare and adjust, nervous system is shocked and causes muscles to quickly contract. The typical results from this are cramps or injuries, but more severe cases place a huge amount of stress put on the heart as it tries to rapidly pump blood to all areas of the body.