It’s HOT. Really HOT! As I’m writing this article the temperature is 103° today. Living in West Texas we are used to triple digits during the summer months. We know to get as much of our outside chores and activities finished before the hottest part of the day. However, there are just some weeks when it’s always hot no matter what time of day – or night – it is. When the heat is just constant and oppressive is it safe to even exercise? Or are you doing more harm than good?
Actually, it’s not only safe, but exercising – cautiously – in the heat can be good for you! While losing weight and looking good are side benefits to exercise; it’s really our health and fitness levels that should be the main motivation to stay active, especially in our older years. By acclimating your body to tolerate hot and cold conditions you can greatly improve your fitness levels and even burn more calories. By allowing your body to experience several different climates, you are better equipped to be able to handle any activity in any condition, but we must make sure we have the knowledge to do this safely.
Here are a few tips to help you exercise in the hot summer months without risk of heat stroke and injury.
1. Be sure to not only drink plenty of water during and after exercise but also in the hours and days before exercising in extreme temperatures. It’s no surprise that we should drink more water while we are out in the heat, but making sure you’re not dehydrated BEFORE you start your workout or activity is even more important. Dehydration occurs very quickly when you are exerting yourself in extreme heat. Therefore, if you are not focused on staying properly hydrated every day, your chances of having heat stroke and becoming dehydrated are increased.
The rule of thumb on hydration is to drink ½ of your body weight in ounces of water daily PLUS an additional 8 oz. for every hour you are exercising. Add triple digit heat into the equation, and I recommend the additional 8 oz. fluid every 30 minutes.
Water is great, but you may also need to replenish your electrolytes if you are exposed to extreme heat for more than an hour. Pickle juice, coconut water, NUUN electrolyte tabs and other electrolyte powders are very beneficial if you are working or playing outside for long periods of time. Be careful to not use electrolyte powders or drinks containing sugar or artificial sweeteners as these will actually cause further dehydration.
Eating watery foods every day during the summer months will also help ensure you stay hydrated. Examples are fresh fruits and vegetables (cucumbers, melons, citrus, zucchini, tomatoes…), soups, and salads. Limit drying foods that will pull water from your body to aid in digestion (such as crackers, nuts, chips, pretzels, undercooked rice and pasta, breads…).
2. Listen to your body! This may be the most important thing to do when exercising in extreme conditions. Forget the “NO PAIN NO GAIN” attitude. If you are feeling overheated, nauseous, extremely thirsty or light headed; BACK OFF! You MUST go slower and plan on doing a little less than normal during your workout in extremely hot temperatures. If you set pride aside and structure your workout in way that allows for more rest between exercises or sets you will accomplish more and greatly improve your fitness levels despite the extreme conditions. You will see these benefits later when you exercise in a more controlled and cooler environment.
A great exercise routine should leave you feeling energetic, strong and accomplished, not completely zapped and sick (i.e. the “workout flu”). If you need to go home a lie down after a workout, it was too strenuous for you that day. Also, puking is not a sign of accomplishment or the ultimate workout. Exercise should help, not hinder, your ability to function the rest of the day no matter what the conditions are.
3. Make sure you have good ventilation and air flow. Our bodies are designed to sweat in order to help keep us from overheating. We will generally feel horribly bad long before we suffer fatal consequences of exercising or working in extreme heat. However, we need to also have some kind of breeze whether made by us (riding a bike); made by artificial means (fans); or made by nature (wind). The sweat needs air to actually help the cooling process. So, remember that even if you are riding your bike indoors on a trainer, you can still overheat if you do not have some kind of ventilation and air blowing on you to allow the sweating process to cool you down. It’s equivalent to exercising in a dry sauna, otherwise.
We would all love to always have the perfect conditions, climate, temperature, exact equipment needed, etc… to do our workouts. But this is not always possible. I personally like the challenge that obstacles bring to a workout. I try to impress upon my clients to use what’s available to them and never complain about the circumstances that throw off their workout. Being able to adapt to any situation is only going to make you a more overall fit and athletic person. You will be less likely to injure yourself or fall victim to the elements if you embrace the challenges that weather and your environment bring to your workout. Plus you will have a lot more fun when you aren’t worried about your fitness level or ability to perform in any environment! Be safe and enjoy the summer.
For more tips get your copy of my #1 best selling book on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Fitness-Food-Faith-Eternal-Everlasting/dp/0692989587/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1525119366&sr=8-1&keywords=fitness+food+faith
Yours in health,
by: Kim Clinkenbeard CPT, FNS
2 large red prickly pear fruit, peeled
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
2-3 fresh (or frozen) pineapple chunks
1 liter (34 oz) pure Coconut water
2 Tbl fresh cilantro chopped
1 cup ice cubes
Blend all ingredients together in a blender or Vitamix. Strain out any seeds. Serve cold; Freezes well.
This is not only a refreshing summer cocktail, but it’s also a great rehydrating drink after a workout in the hot summer months. If you want it sweeter, add more pineapple!