Don’t let the heat stop you from exercising
Sunny days, heat and humidity are enough to put many people off exercising in the summer months. And when you throw in holidays, Christmas and time off school, you might find it all too easy to skip exercise altogether. Before you know it, the holiday season is over, you haven’t managed to fit in any exercise and the Christmas indulgence is starting to show.
However, for most people it’s best to maintain the exercise habit rather than stopping and starting and taking frequent breaks. And if you play a team or individual sport, you can’t afford to take your foot off the pedal over summer. If you take too long a break, you’ll quickly lose your strength and fitness, and your competitors will end up getting ahead of you. Maintaining your exercise or training routine over summer is important, but there’s no denying it can be hard. But don’t let the heat stop you from exercising – try these tips to help.
Get out early – or late
In the extreme heat of summer, it’s best to avoid exercise in the hottest part of the day, between 10.00am and 3.00pm. Unless you’re participating in an event or game held during these times, it’s wisest to keep exercise for the early morning or late afternoon. If the day is going to be a scorcher, the early morning is always your best bet, as often the weather doesn’t cool down until well into the night.
Morning or afternoon – when’s the best time to exercise? Find out here.
Exercise in cooler placers
During the heat of summer, you might need to change where you work out. If you’re used to exercising outside, now might be a good time to take your workout indoors. Gyms are a great alternative to outside exercise, or if you can’t afford a gym membership (or don’t want to), do strength training routines at home, follow along with an exercise DVD or run up and down the stairs.
If you must exercise outside, try and choose pathways or playing areas that are out of the sun. Take your run along a shaded, cooler trail rather than the sunny streets in your neighbourhood or go for a run near the beach if you’re lucky enough to live at the coast. The sea breeze will cool things down by up to 10 degrees, giving you a much more pleasant experience.
Exercise in the rain
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be quite exhilarating (and much cooler) to exercise in the rain. Keep safety in mind of course, and don’t exercise on a surface that’s too slippery or muddy. A light sprinkle provides for a refreshing workout experience, whereas a heavy downpour may not. And definitely stay inside if there’s thunder and lightning around.
Change up your workouts
If you can, try and modify your workouts to better suit the summer heat. Running 10km in humid conditions may not be very appealing, so try cooler cardio activities such as swimming, canoeing or going for a bike ride in the breeze. Summer is the perfect time to change it up and embrace something new. A little bit of cross training might be just what you need to freshen up your regime as well.
Swimming is a great sport for everyone – especially in summer. Find out how to get started here.
You might also need to adjust your pace to accommodate the weather. Summertime is not the best time to push yourself too hard – it’s okay to take breaks. Shorten your workouts, try interval training to give yourself some breaks, or split up your workouts so that you’re not doing it all at once. Opt for less intense training over summer – do what you can but don’t overdo it. Chances are you won’t be able to exercise at your normal level of intensity – and that’s okay.
Wear appropriate clothing
What you wear is all important during summer’s hot weather. While you don’t have to buy the latest and greatest exercise gear all the time, it does help to have clothing that’s specifically designed to keep you cool and performing at your best. Wearing old terry towelling shorts and a skin-tight polyester t-shirt is probably not going to help you perform or enjoy what you’re doing. These types of clothing aren’t breathable or comfortable and will probably wind up holding you back.
Loose clothing and breathable fabrics are extremely important during summer, to help prevent you from overheating. Choose lightweight fabrics that wick away sweat, and make sure you’re wearing loose and comfortable items, rather than fitted clothing. Light coloured clothing reflects the heat better than dark coloured clothing, so choose breathable fabrics in lighter colours to keep your cool.
Stay well hydrated
If you fail to drink enough water, dehydration can set in fairly quickly in hot weather. This can lead to light headedness, nausea, and in extreme cases, even kidney failure or death. Aim to take a drink every 15 minutes while you’re exercising, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Plain water is hands-down the best drink while exercising. It may not be the most exciting beverage, but it’s the best one around for keeping you hydrated. Steer clear of sports drinks, as they’re loaded with calories and are often not necessary unless you’re exercising for long durations at high intensities.
And don’t just keep up the hydration while you’re exercising. Keep replenishing your body’s water supply for a few hours after you finish exercising too. Staying hydrated will help prevent dizziness, headaches and cramps. However, drinking too much water without replenishing your electrolytes can cause problems as well. Try eating some fruits and vegetables as well as drinking water to replenish your electrolytes quickly and keep your body functioning well.
Freeze a water bottle
Put a water bottle in the freezer the night before you train. It will gradually melt as you use it the next day while exercising, giving you a steady supply of icy cold water.
Use a cooling towel
Get an extra shot of energy and enthusiasm by applying a cold, wet towel to the back of your neck during your training breaks. If you freeze your towel before you start, it will stay cooler for longer.
Maintain your energy
While you may not feel like eating much in the heat, it’s better to keep nibbling on light snacks. Exercising in the heat takes a lot out of your body, and you need to replenish your stores of energy. Maintain a steady level of fuel by choosing easily digestible snacks such as fruits, vegetables, crackers or nuts. This is much better than eating a heavy meal before training in summer, as this will just weigh you down and make you feel sluggish.
Pay attention to how you feel
It’s hugely important to pay attention to how your body is responding to exercise in hot conditions. Never let yourself get to the point of feeling sick, faint or dizzy. Listen to your body – it’s better to not finish a workout than to have the workout finish you off! Know the symptoms of heatstroke and get treatment fast if you or your training buddies are experiencing any of them.
Keep in mind that even a short workout has positive effects, so go a bit easier on your body during summer – you’ll still be getting the benefits of exercise without hurting yourself.
If training outside
Use sunscreen liberally
Your skin can cop a flogging from the brutal summer sun, especially here in Australia. Severe sunburn is obviously not desirable, so make sure you apply sunscreen liberally if you’re training outside, even on cloudy days. Choose a high SPF, oil-free sunscreen to keep your hands free from grease – especially important if you’re playing a sport involving your hands. Reapply to exposed skin every hour or so if you’re going to be exercising outside for a long period of time. Your lips are just as important, so don’t forget lip balm either.
Wear a hat, cap or sunglasses
It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how often people forget or choose not to wear these extremely important pieces of protective wear. A hat or cap will protect your face from sunburn, keep the sweat out of your eyes and keep the bright sunshine off your face and allow you to see clearly what you’re trying to do. Glare-reducing eyewear will also go a long way towards protecting your eyes from damaging rays, as well as allowing you to focus better.