If you like to exercise outdoors, here are 6 tips for cooling down your workout and staying safe and well.
1. Drink Up
Exercising in hot weather increases our body temperature. Sure, our bodies have built-in cooling systems that help us adjust to heat. That’s why we perspire. But this natural cooling system can fail if we’re exposed to soaring temperatures for too long. The result may be heat exhaustion – that awful fatigue that makes you feel as if one more step could be your last – and even heat stroke.
If the humidity is also way up, you’re in double trouble because your sweat “sticks” to your skin; it doesn’t evaporate as readily, which can send body temperature even higher.
To keep cool, make sure first of all that you’re drinking plenty of water. Since our bodies are about 50 to 60% water, it is vital to maintain this amount. We tend to lose about 2 to 3% during typical exercise and activity, especially on hot days. While you’re exercising, drink 230mls to 300mls of water every 20 minutes. After exercise, drink more – at minimum, another 230mls.
Another great way to help re-hydrate during a break in physical activity is to eat a piece of fruit, such as an apple or orange, or even carrots or celery sticks. The fruit or veggies will also help replace valuable electrolyte loss.
How do I know if I’m drinking enough water?
A good way to know that you’re hydrating properly is by checking the colour of your urine. If it’s pale yellow (think lemonade), you’re well hydrated. If it’s darker (heading toward the colour of apple juice), drink more.
But do be aware that some medications and supplements alter the colour of urine, so this gauge, while good for many, does not work for everyone. To be safe, do drink the recommended 230 to 300 mls of water for every 20 minutes of activity,
Don’t drink too much
Be careful not to drink too much water, called overhydration. It can lead to a problem called hyponatremia (low blood sodium). Bottom line, drink during and after exercise and other physical activities. At other times of the day, drink when thirsty.
Steer clear of sports drinks. They’re loaded with calories.
Sports drinks are not worth the caloric weight. There is no need for additional supplementation.
Sport drinks should only be considered if you’re of ideal body weight and exercising for long durations at high intensities. Even then, it’s a good idea to dilute sport drinks to avoid excessive calorie consumption.
Eating fruits and vegetables during exercise provides ample electrolytes for the body, even further decreasing the need for high-calorie sport drinks,
2. Ease Up
If you’re used to working out in cooler climates, take it easy at first. Just accept the fact that you can’t do what you normally do.
If you normally run, jog or walk. If you’re a brisk walker, slow it down. As your body adapts to the heat, gradually increase the pace and length of your workout. If you have a medical condition and/or take prescription medications, do ask your physician if you need to take any additional precautions.
3. Avoid the Hottest Part of the Day
Rise early to catch the cool of the morning, or go out at sunset or later. In the heat of midday, take cover under shade. Jump in a pool. Sign up for an aqua-aerobics class.
4. Wear Light-Coloured, Lightweight Clothing
Dark colours absorb the heat, which can make you feel as if you’re wrapped in a warm blanket. Heavyweight, tight-fitting clothing will also heat you up. Keep it loose. Keep it light. More air will be able to circulate over your skin, keeping you cool.
5. Eat Snacks to Maintain Energy
But pick juicy snacks like fruit. The last thing you need in scorching heat are dry snacks like crackers, popcorn, or energy bars that require your body to add water. Plus, dry snacks are often dense with calories, which means they can easily foil weight-loss goals, summer or winter.
6. Know When to Say, “I’m Going Inside.”
Okay, okay, it kills you not to finish your 6 kilometre workout. May we be so blunt as to suggest that it may kill you if you try. Paid heed to the heat. Listen to your body. If you’re feeling any of the following, find air-conditioned comfort fast.
- Paling of the skin
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
Remember that even a 20-minute workout has positive health effects. It’s the number of days you exercise that matters most. Frequency of days far outweighs the amount of time of any given exercise session,
Finally, if it’s just too hot, stay indoors and do your resistance training!