There are a lot of reasons workouts and health club memberships suffer in the summertime. The nice weather beckons and the last thing you want to do is go to the gym and push yourself through a workout. The heat can be a deterrent, too. Whether it’s a dry heat or a muggy one, high temperatures tend to drain your energy and your resolve. The excuse of “it’s just too hot to workout” isn’t a legitimate one, though.
A study done at the University of Oregon and published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that training in heat improved athletic performance. In fact, heat training proved to be better than high altitude training for reaching superior fitness levels. How hot, you might ask? 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with 30 percent humidity. (!) That’s some pretty encouraging data, but don’t go off half-cocked and throw yourself into a full-blown super-heated workout just yet. Exercising in heat does put extra stress on your body and can cause serious health issues if you don’t do it right. Go into your hot summer workout informed and prepared and you’ll stay healthy and in shape well into the cooler fall weather, and improve your performance and fitness level in the bargain.
If you don’t know how to work out in the heat properly, you could wind up with a heat illness. According to the Mayo Clinic, even if your body temperature is normal, the hot environment around you can cause minor effects such as light-headedness and muscle cramping or more serious consequences including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Take the precautions listed in the next section, but any time you workout, whether in your “normal” environment or the heat, watch out for signs such as
- weakness and fatigue
- muscle cramps
- excessive sweating
- increased heart rate
- blurry vision
- low blood pressure, dizziness
If any of these symptoms occur, stop your workout, drink some water and take steps to lower your body temperature. Fan yourself, remove extra layers of clothing, spritz your body with water, even wrap yourself in wet towels or apply ice packs.
The “Do’s” to Hot Workouts
Ease yourself into exercising in the heat, working out for a shorter period of time at first or working out with less intensity until you’re acclimated to exercising in elevated temperatures. Also, it’s not advisable to exercise in temperatures that are much higher than 100˚ F. Prepare yourself before you jump into working out in the heat. Health and fitness professionals offer vital tips such as wearing lightweight wicking clothing, taking a cool shower before your workout, and drinking plenty of water. In fact, you should hydrate throughout the day, not just during your workout, and to drink a sports drink while exercising. Whether you opt for the sports drink or water, though, be sure you take in at least 4 and up to 8 ounces every 15 minutes while working out.
If you’re not up for trying a heated workout, the summer heat shouldn’t be an excuse to stop exercising. Instead, it’s the ideal justification for changing up your workout. Web MD recommends adjusting your workout based on your surroundings, whether you’re on vacation or spending the summer at home. For example, swimming in a lake provides an effective full-body workout including cardio, and you’ll stay cool while doing it. Pole walking in the mountains is another terrific way to work your whole body as well as your cardiovascular system. And does anyone really need to point out that beaches facilitate great workouts like snorkeling or beach volleyball? No matter where you are, though, simple activities such as a bike ride provide beneficial exercise and, even if there’s just a gentle breeze, biking through the moving air will feel cooling.
Those are all excellent ideas for outdoor exercise but don’t give up on the gym just because it’s summer. If staying cool is your main goal instead of trying a hot workout, the gym is the logical place to be because most health clubs have cooling systems or are air conditioned. You’ll still want to dress appropriately and drink ample fluids, but the climate-controlled environment will be a bit more comfortable than the triple-digit temperatures outside. Plus you won’t be back at square one with your fitness level and workouts when autumn comes.