How to Stay Safe While Exercising in the Heat
Winter is behind us and summer and exercising in the heat is just around the corner. The days are longer, the temps are rising and people are spending more time outside. There’s nothing better than going for a run, a hike or a bike ride on a nice sunny day. But before you head outside into the sun for that workout, here are a few things to consider to stay safe while exercising in the heat.
Consult your Doctor
You’ve heard it a hundred times before; consult your doctor before doing this or that. Well, I’m going to say it again: If you’re a novice or beginner or haven’t worked out in a while, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If you are an experienced exerciser and have been exercising on a regular basis, you should be okay, but it’s always a good idea to get a quick check-up.
Dehydration can become a big concern when it comes to exercising in the heat. When you exercise, your body temperature increases, so you sweat as a way to cool down. Sweating means lost fluids, which can lead to dehydration and a whole host of problems including increased heart rate and decreased blood pressure. Drink a large glass of water an hour or so before you plan on exercising. Then continually take a few sips of water every 10-15 minutes during your workout. Be careful not to over-consume water particularly after your workout as this can lead to a condition called Hyponatremia or water intoxication. This condition causes an osmotic imbalance, which results in fluid movement into the brain, causing swelling of the brain. The swelling can lead to disorientation, confusion, general weakness, grand mal seizures, coma, and possibly death.
There’s a whole new market of exercise clothing designed specifically for outdoor activity that can do everything from wicking away your sweat, protecting you from the sun, helping you stay cool and making you look good in the process. The key is to wear lightweight, breathable fabrics that are also light in color to reflect the sun.
Timing is Everything
Since the sun is strongest around 12PM, it is probably not the best idea to head out for your workout right at noon. Try to get out early in the morning or later in the evening when the day is coolest. Mornings are usually better as humidity can build throughout the day, leaving the evening very muggy.
Know your Route
The hottest day of the year is definitely not the time to try out that new route you’ve heard about. Make sure you know where you’re going, how far the route is and what’s along the way in case you get into a spot of bother. It is also a good idea to stick to populated routes. When the mercury is high the last thing you want is to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere in the blazing sun, with no one else around, trying to find your way home.
Just because it’s cloudy and the sun’s not shining through does not mean you can’t get burned. Those pesky UVA & UVB rays will get you no matter what. So as the Baz Luhrmann song says “wear sunscreen”. There are many different sunscreen available, so do your research for what’s best for you. A hat is also a good idea to help protect your head, face and neck. Just be sure to take it off now and then to let your head breathe and some of that hot air escape. Sunglasses are also advisable, especially if you’re anywhere around water. However, be careful not to end up with panda eyes. Even better, wear a cooling vest for athletes to keep your core temperature under control or even improve your performance with pre-cooling warmup exercises.
Signs of Heat Stroke
It is also a good idea to know and pay attention to the signs of heat stroke and heat-related illness. Symptoms include:
- Muscle cramping
- Nausea &/or vomiting
- Headache &/or dizziness
- Confusion &/or disorientation
- Difficulty breathing
- Absence of sweating
If you start to experience any of these symptoms, you should stop exercising in the heat, try to lower your body temperature and hydrate.
The best piece of advice is just to be sensible and stay smart. Check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be a scorcher, then don’t try to be a hero and start your new exercise schedule on that day. Even if you do exercise regularly and are on a specific training schedule, sometimes it’s okay to skip the day when the sun is blazing. If you can’t live without getting that workout in, then hit the air conditioned gym instead.
When the mercury is bubbling trade in that long, slow, plodding jog for a short, quick, high intensity blast. Stay close to home and perform some sprint intervals or a bodyweight circuit. Try wearing a Hyper Vest PRO for some added intensity, allowing you to get the maximum benefit in minimum time and with less exposure to the great fire ball in the sky.