Summer temperatures and high humidity take their toll on a fitness regimen, not to mention the body. We don't want you giving up or cloistering yourself in the gym during the warm months. Here are five tips for making the most of your outdoor fitness plan while taking good and safe care of your body.
1. Avoid the very hottest times of the day if at all possible. Before 10:00 am and after 6:00 pm are typically cooler than the hours in the middle of the day, so try to plan your exercise or rec time when your body won't have to work quite as hard to stay cool. In addition, pick a spot or route that is well shaded in order to avoid direct exposure to the sun's heat.
2. Prep the outside of your body for the elements. You wouldn't head out for a run in the freezing cold without protection like a wind breaker or extra layer, so don't head out in the summer with all of your skin exposed. Your skin is the largest organ of the body. That's right, it's an organ, just like your heart, muscles, and lungs, so treat it with the utmost respect when you are exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. A UV hat and sunglasses are great accessories, as is clothing that wicks sweat away from your skin and helps keep you cool. There's even clothing with UV protection so check out available options and invest in an outfit that will help you beat the heat.
3. Prep the inside of your body for the elements. We chatter endlessly about the value of whole fruits and veggies, pure grains, nuts, lean meats, etc - that food technology, while marketed as the silver bullet of any fitness experience, are still not as good for you as the basic foods our grandparents ate. Never has this idea been more important - unless you are in training for a marathon, triathlon or some other endurance event - you really do not need to lean on technology for your calories.
You do, however, need to fuel the body properly and sufficiently, as well as to hydrate adequately before you head outside. How do you know if you are hydrated? The best way is the pee test (your urine should be pale yellow or yellow/green, almost clear - any additional color likely means that your body lacks proper hydration, especially for hot weather recreation).
4. Maintain hydration during your activity. Another self evident piece of advice, right? Yes, definitely but it's still one that many people neglect when they are rushing to get back to the showers. Generally speaking, you'll want to drink 8-10 oz of fluid every 15-20 minutes of exercise. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Well remember that single serving retail water bottles are typically 16 oz., which means that you only need to drink half of that. And if you are taking water in from a fountain, get as much as you can. A single gulp is going to range from about a half of an ounce to perhaps as much as three oz. If you really want to make a science out of it, click here for an intake test that can measure you actual fluid loss during exercise.
5. Know your limits and do not push yourself, especially if you are alone. Exercising in the heat can cause severe damage to your body, including painful cramps, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, even fainting and hospitalization. So please be careful out there. And slow down if need be. Take a little cash with you in case you need to stop for additional nutrition, and carry a phone so that you can reach help if you need it. Better yet, take a friend. It's a lot more fun when you have a buddy to commiserate with and it is far safer.
The summer months come and go so quickly, but that hour long run in the sun sometimes seems to last forever, so take good care. But still have fun. And please let us know if you have any questions.