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Beat the Heat: 10 Expert Tips for Staying Cool During Hot Workouts

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Don't skip the sunscreen. Always apply a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF that shields your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
  5. 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.
  6. 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."
  7. 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."
  8. 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.
  9. 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."
  10. Know the signs of heat exhaustion. If you start to experience headaches, dizziness, blurred vision and nausea, stop exercising, rest and hydrate.
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.

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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Thank-you, some great advice. Report
EVILCECIL 3/4/2021
Good to know. Thanks. Report
KATHYJO56 12/29/2020
I can't handle the heat when exercise. Great article Report
MJ7DM33 8/4/2020
TY Report
Thanks! Report
Best hint you didn't list: Don't workout in direct sunlight. Sunshine between 10am and 6pm is to be avoided, because that's when it is most dangerous. Report
I have an irregular heart beat when it's really hot--not supposed to work out. So I have to do it early in the morning, if I'm feeling up to it. Also, I love to take a cold bath to cool down sometimes. Report
Thanks Report
Thanks Report
I always exercise when it's cool outside. Great article. Report
Thanks for the article Report
thanks Report
Thanks for a great article :) Report
thanks for sharing Report
Staying hydrated is very important in the summer. Report
I recommend the adalid neoprene hydration belt...holds 2 10-oz bottles, designed to sit low on your waist (doesnt restrict breathing), and smooth neoprene fabric makes chafing not even an issue. I have used it on 22-mile runs in 80+ degree weather. Report
I live in Alabama where there is both heat and humidity. My outdoor exercise is either before 9 am or after 7 pm, unless it's swimming. Report
This hot summer even working out in the pool was difficult! After a few tries I had to move my water aerobics to after sundown! So, yes, hot weather workouts are tougher on me! They also make my blood sugar drop drastically low! I have to be very careful! Report
Temporary Mississippian here, and this kind of weather is what gym memberships are for. I do as little outdoors as possible in the hot, stifling summer months. Whoever used the word "sultry" to describe our summers needs their heads examined. Report
My walking partner and I go out fairly early and adjust our distance when it is really hot. We walked for 30 minutes today. Report
I don't like the heat one bit so I try to walk outside while it's cool. Once it hits mid-70s, I'm indoors. Report
Just got my walk in. Beat the sun. I like to walk so did it early. Report
I'm in Virginia, and I exercise outside in the morning before it gets really hot. I won't turn on the ac until I get really miserable, but I do try to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. Report
Acclimating has always worked really well for me. When the first 80 degree day rolls around, I feel awful but by easing in to warmer temperatures, I can tolerate more and more degrees. Just the same, because I am elderly I avoid outdoor workouts on stifling days and go to my air conditioned gym instead. Never fails to amaze me how the body can adapt. Report
I exercise at home in the house. I do walk outside but other exercise is done inside. Report
I exercise indoors. Can't take the heat and I live in the Deep South. Report
I try my best to get my exercise done early or in the evening when the day cools down. Report
I'm in north Texas. Hot and humid so far. I try to be out by 6:30AM. I'm thinking about joining a gym that has a pool. Report
I get out early and if I don't I go to the gym. Report
I'm from Florida, so I'm actually cold almost all the time now that I don't live there anymore. Temps over 90 feel best to me, I just exercise after sundown instead of during the day, but even if I go for a walk during the day I'm fine as long as it's not over 110. Sunscreen and shade are my friends! Report
Thanks Its really hot some days but lately raining have to walk in place for 20 min. Report
Thanks for the useful tips! Report
I don't think it was ever actually cold this year in Florida. I know we had our first good beach days in January so my body is used to the heat. Report
I am in Arizona and we will hit 111 here today. The low temps (2AM) are in the upper 70's and lower 80's, so if you want to exercise outside (other than in the pool) you have to get up VERY early! Report
Walk on the shady side of the street. Report
I live in Florida, so I get up and out EARLY in the morning. Report
Don't exercise in the heat of the day. Mornings or evenings are better Report
I took a quick look at your blog in case I need this info while traveling... I don't know if I'm fortunate or not, but it NEVER gets that hot here. Thank you for sharing! Report
Don't forget about your pets! Great advice! Report
I'm in Florida, I stay acclimated to the heat lol, you know, since it's been summer since January and all. lol. Doesn't mean I enjoy it one bit lol. Report
A chilly pad can help as well as feel refreshing.
You can make your own energy (fluid and electrolyte replacement) drinks and save money.
Why not add swimming back into your options? Report