Updated August 2016 by Melissa Rudy
Hot sun is great during a day at the pool, but it can become a stifling challenge when you're exercising outside. Whether you live in a year-round tropical climate or one with four distinct seasons, you'll eventually face the prospect of working out in the heat. Our bodies are designed to cool themselves, but it does take time for them to get acclimated to rising temperatures.
"Be patient with yourself and realize you can't expect to begin exercising in the heat at the same intensity and duration as you were doing prior to heat exposure," says exercise physiologist Rachel Straub. Depending on your age, current health condition and activity level, it could take up to two weeks for your body to adapt. But the payoff is worth it: Studies have shown that the process of heat acclimatization could actually improve your exercise performance.
We asked a few expert trainers for their favorite tips on staying safe and comfortable while exercising in the heat.
When you're struggling to get through a hot workout, remind yourself that the heat is helping you train harder and get tougher, and that you'll be a stronger athlete by the end of the workout.
- Stay hydrated. Ellen Yin, exercise specialist at Ledbetter Inc., recommends drinking 4 to 8 ounces of water for every 20 minutes of physical activity in the sun, and then after your workout session, drinking three cups of water per pound of body weight lost. Hydration is important not only during hot workouts, but also throughout the day after exercise. Either plan your route where there are water fountains, or invest in a hydration belt to hold a water bottle, says Carol Frazey from The Fit School.
- Drink sports drinks, but in moderation. "Sports drinks and Pedialyte help to replace lost electrolytes, but they tend to be very high in sugar, which can lead to a spike in energy levels that can cause early fatigue, especially on hot days," says Lisa Corsello, founder of Burn. "Try to keep your energy level in check by mixing two parts of water for every one part of the sports drink." Orange wedges work well, too.
- Time your workouts strategically. Try to exercise early in the morning or after dinner, when temperatures are cooler and the sun's rays aren't so harsh.
- Don't skip the sunscreen. Always apply a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF that shields your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
- Get plenty of sleep. Corsello warns that you'll likely fatigue much quicker on hot days. Be sure to get a good night's sleep before your planned exercise activity, and allow at least one day of rest and recovery before your next workout.
- Rest frequently. Yin recommends taking a 15-minute rest break for every hour of hot exercise. You may also need to adjust the intensity or duration of your workouts. "Hot weather can lead to low energy levels," says Corsello. "Modify your workout by decreasing the heaviness of your weights and/or decreasing reps and taking breaks when you need them."
- Take a dip. Cool off in a pool, lake or ocean before and/or after a hot workout, or consider swapping your regular routine for swimming laps. If that's not an option, throw some water on your head, neck or entire body to stay cool. Trainer Cheryl Russo shares this stay-cool tip that's a favorite among sports teams: "Bring a small cooler with frozen washcloths to use against pressure points to bring down body temperature."
- Consider cooling products. There are many fitness products designed to help keep you cool during hot workouts. Frazey likes this versatile Mission Cooling Wrap, which is made from a high-performance fabric that cools the skin when wet.
- Exercise with a buddy. "Even if you plan ahead, you can run into trouble during your workout," says trainer Catherine Basu with Fit Armadillo. "Exercising with a buddy ensures that you're safe even after you've done all you can to prepare."
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion. If you start to experience headaches, dizziness, blurred vision and nausea, stop exercising, rest and hydrate.
Do you find it more challenging to exercise outdoors in the heat? Do you have any tips for acclimating to rising temperatures?
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