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The Heat is On: Taking Precautions When Exercising Outdoors

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As many of you already know, I live deep in the heart of Texas. And while I would like to believe that it doesn’t get that hot, try telling me that this past Saturday when I had to get out well before sunrise to get my long run done. The reality is, when summer temperatures start to rise, my motivation to get out the door falls dramatically, especially when it is already 85 degrees at 5:30 in the morning.

But how does one manage to do fall marathon training, or for that matter any outdoor exercise, once the temps start moving up the thermostat.

Most running experts state the ideal temperature for long distance running is between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. However, here in Texas, that is only a small portion of our year. Once the temps start edging above these levels, performance levels start to decline. It has been shown for every 5 degrees above this range there is a 2% degradation in performance and this does not account for any other environmental factors such as humidity and ozone levels.

Below are some tips to take into consideration when exercising outdoors once the temps begin to climb.

  • Get out early before sunrise, if possible There are many sources of heat when one exercises outside. The most obvious being air temperature, but one cannot ignore the effects from the sun’s radiant heat, as well as the heat reflecting off the road surface. Add a little humidity and little to no air movement to the mix and you have the perfect storm for some very big issues. Heat cramps and other potentially dangerous heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke are conditions to be noted.

  • Slow down Whether walking, running or cycling you will need to slow your pace and/or speed. If you have a race scheduled during warm temps understand that this is not the time to strive for a personal best. Your performance will be affected by the higher temperatures.

  • Run, walk, or cycle on a shaded route Direct heat can raise your body temperature by as much as 8-9 degrees higher than the ambient temperature, therefore, having a shaded route will help offset the effects of the direct heat. I also run routes where I have access to early morning sprinklers. This is a great way to keep cool.

  • Stay hydrated Wear a fuel belt or carry water with you. If you plan on being out for a long period of time consider carrying a sports drink with you.

  • Wear the proper attire Choose light colored clothing that wicks away sweat from the skin.

  • Wear a visor or a hat that allows for air flow. This will help keep intense heat off your head.

  • Wear your sunglasses Don’t forget to bring sunglasses with you. Eye strain can lead to tensing of the upper body therefore causing you to be less efficient in your running or walking.

  • Carry ice with you You can place the ice in a rag and wrap it around you neck. Carry it under your hat until you are ready to use it.

  • Listen to your body If you feel nauseated, dizzy, feeling foggy headed, or if you quit sweating this is a time to stop, sit down, drink water and seek help. This is why it is very important to run with a partner or leave a map with your family. And do not forget to wear your RoadID or carry some form of ID on your person as well as your cell phone.

    According to information I received at the Road Runners Club of America Coaching Certification Class it takes the average runner 10 hours of running in the heat to acclimate to the heat, but this does NOT mean you will not need to take the necessary precautions mentioned above to stay safe. If all else fails, feel free to take your workouts indoors until the temperatures begin to drop. One should always err on the side of caution over risking one’s health.

    Have you had to deal with the summer temperatures and if so what measures do you take to prevent problems? Have you been able to keep exercising outdoors this summer?

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    SPINECCO 6/25/2021
    Thanks. Report
    SUNSET09 8/21/2020
    Right on time, SparkFriends as it's been hot, hot and hot! Report
    Thanks. Report
    Some good tips to pay attention to. Report
    Thanks for some very good info on how to workout safely in the heat.

    The way i avoid this problem is by doing my 2 mile walk about 8 am in a park near my home that has plenty of shade. I am 55 years old and have been working out for about 3 months. I have to remind myself often to pace myself and don't overdo anything. My mind thinks I'm 25, but my body knows better and lets me know who's boss. lol

    Have a good, healthy day everyone.

    gary Report
    Because of my allergies, the only outdoor exercise I get is mowing the lawn ~ followed by a sinus rinse & shower :) Thanks for compiling these lists as reminder of the precautions I should take. I wish I could mow at dawn, but I'm sure the neighbors wouldn't appreciate it. The allergens are highest in the morning, but it is also the coolest it will be all day. Sometimes you've just got to bite the bullet, so to speak. Report
    Very informative blog!

    Thank you. Report
    Very helpful info. Thanks. Report
    Oh, poor Winston - @WINSTONSUZ I hope he's doing better!!!

    I need to get out more in the heat too, but I pretty much got to do it before 11 am or after 4 pm here in DooDah Wichita. This past friday or Saturday, forget when, I was out early like 7 am and walked around 30 minutes, and it wasn't too hot, maybe upper 70's but it was SOOOO humid, around 80 % or more. I just made loops in the neighborhood so if I got to feeling cruddy, I could get back to the house a bit sooner than if I had made like 1 mile straight out etc. When I got back, I had 24 oz of water with Natural apple cider vinegar (NACV) to replace whatever electrolytes and felt better.

    Fixing to go out later this afternoon, though I don't think it is as hot/humid... Report
    Today I decided to walk my dog, Winston to Petsmart, it was in the mid-70's with a breeze. It's just over a mile one way. We did pretty good going there and while there he was in the store, cooling down in the air conditioning, drinking water, he even laid down to take a puppy nap before we started back. Coming back the temps were in the 80's........ and part way back he started to get sick and started throwing up....... he laid down and wouldn't get up........ I had to pick him up (he weighs 17 pounds) and carry him most of the rest of the way home. I had to put him in the tub with cool water and keep pouring it over him before he recovered. I did fine....... Winston not so much........ he's resting comfortably tonight and seems fine. Pet's need to be watched in the heat as well....... Report
    I came very close to not being able to complete our outside Boot Camp class last night.
    Thought I'd faint. It was still 88 degrees. Maybe that was part of it. Report
    It's a good thing I lived in a place where the weather is continuously same - wet and sunny the whole year. Although, when the day is hotter than usual or when it's monsoon season (rain heavily day after day), I tend to get more lazier, much prefer lay in my bed, reading or cuddle in blanket. Report
    Living in "The Valley of the Sun" has definitely changed how I exercise. We are on the lake to row at 5am (when it 'opens') because there is no such thing as shade out on a lake! Carrying lots of water in a Camelback is the best way I've found to tackle hydration while hiking or on long walks. If it's going to be above 105 (i.e. most of the summer) we'll hike early or take the exercise indoors in the form of a class (like Zumba) or indoor rowing machine. Ultimately, though, getting used to conducting my workout outdoors in moderately high temperatures up to 100 F has increased my stamina, increased my heat tolerance and makes for a more intense workout (that's the principle behind "hot yoga" for example). While it isn't for everyone - like those with heart conditions - I think most people underestimate their ability to adapt to the harsher climate. I certainly did! Report
    I was just down in Fort Worth for a visit for two weeks and during 102-105 degrees, I went out for a run... Not my best move. I had to stop in the 7-11 and use the bathroom sink for a much needed cool down. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? oye. Report
    I live in North Texas and for the past 2 months, have been walking outside for my entire lunch hour. If anyone has watched the weather, you would know that it's been 100 degrees and over for at least 15 days. I keep a lot of water close by, and tend to slow down towards the end of my walk when I get light headed.
    I also try to get out at least by 11:30 am at the latest before it gets intolerabley hot. Report
    If you practice running in the heat will you be able to run better in lower temperatures? Just wondering, not because I'm keen on masochism, but because that would be my only motivation to actually run outside in the summer. Report
    This is the only time of year I don't like living in Florida. Before I started running, I rarely left the house in the summer. Now I find I can do more outside. So, I think the running in the heat has also helped me too. Report
    Too bad we can't just stand outside and sweat the weight off. It is hotter than heck in San Antonio. Report
    I'm in Texas too - so I know all too well what you're talking about. I trained for a half marathon on June 20th, so I specifically did most of my training runs right around 8am outside to acclimate to the heat. Now, after the race, I just can't bring myself to run outside. I've been enjoying other activities (and a much needed break) that are either outside and less strenuous or inside.

    The best advice I can give is get a camelback and wear that on long runs, and make sure to eat a gel/sport beans/etc even if you don't feel like you need them. In the heat, the last thing you want to do is run out of fuel or get dehydrated miles away from home! Report
    I've not been outside to exercise - it's usually in the gym or in my living room, wherever it's more comfortable. I would like to try to ride my bike to and from work, and that tends to get me very sweaty in summer months of Florida! Report
    Hmmm...something I probably should have read before getting stranded during a mountain hike a few days ago. ;) Report
    This is all great information!

    I am new to running in the summer and with our heat and humidity that Minnesota can get... these tips will come in handy.

    Thank you! Report
    As a fellow Texan, I can attest to the heat index already this summer. I usually try toget out the door by 5:45am. After completing my 2+ miles, my shirt is soaked.... Report
    I live on the East Coast and usually get up and start my long run between 5:30a and 6:00a. If it is a short run and the day is hot, then I wait an hour before sundown to fit a run in. I use a camelbak on my long runs and it helps a great deal, along with electrolytes. Trail running is a great escape from the heat if you have any nearby. I have the C&O Canal and it has so much canopy that the run is very easy. Report
    Here in Massachusetts, like my fellow Sparkers in NH and VT, we've had a terribly rainy summer - so far, it rained nearly the entire month of June through July, up until Friday. FINALLY, we have more than 2 days of sun in a row! The temps during the rain was a chilly 60-ish, when usually by July it is in the high 80s with 60% humidity. The humidity can be draining, so we keep cool when we walk (when it is hot and humid) by walking before 8 a.m. and hydrating before, during, and after our walks and bike rides. We are lucky in that we have lots of shady places to exercise (lots of trees in MA, unlike out in AZ and some parts of CA, I think?), so that helps, too. Report
    I cannot do long distance running, so I do short runs (sprint intervals) in the shaded trails behind my house. When I take my dog, I make sure to pass all the spots that have water near it ( a river runs parallel to our house) and I usually put down a water bottle near the trail opening for me. Report
    I can't help but be a little jealous of this problem. I did a really long run and ended up soaked to the skin and freezing cold with wind burns on my face! This was in April! (Anyone fancy a house swap to Scotland???) If so bring gloves... xx Report
    I live outside of Houston, Texas and last week my nephew and I had to start our runs at 4:45 in the morning and one day there was already a 94° heat index!!!!!!! It is draining - can't wait for October when the temps are lower. I start training for a 1/2 marathon in September and I certainly hope the temps are more tolerable at that time! :) Report
    I live in Tucson, Arizona. I get up early to walk, but when it is already 80 and humid at 6 am, I have to PUSH myself! I try to choose my trail with lots of shade along the Rillito river park. Really helps alot. The other day, however, I tried a walk in the shade, but the sun was already feeling like 90 when I walked into some of it. I turned around, and gave UP and went to the Mall. I really prefer outdoor free walking to the Mall or tredmill, but may have to do that some in the future too. I am working up to a hike in Bear Canyon the 18th., and will have to get out EARLY then. Haven't done that trek since the 80's , and the only memory I have of it, was it was pretty much a level walk, but constantly through the cold creek...I sort of DOUBT it will be cold at all! I do look forward to Fall when it cools off again.

    I take a 24 ounce Camel back with lots of ice that I DO drink most of it during a 4 mile walk...but will use my 2L back pack on longer treks!
    This really was a great post! Report
    When I need to schedule runs around 5 pm, I often head to our river trail which winds its way over a few rolling hills mostly through trees and near the water's edge. I find that on occasion I get a breeze from off the river, but the shade from the trees is what makes it a GREAT place to run. Report
    I am in south texas myself and the 100+ degree days we have been having over the last several weeks have totally taken a toll on my outdoor exercise. It's as if we "hybernate" in the summer while everyone up north is out and about.. during the winter we are doing all our outdoor exercise... it's draining to be in the heat all the time... Report
    I try to time laps where I do not have to carry the water bottle Report
    I live in Soutwestern Arizona and have been able to continue walking in the early mornings. 5:00 to 5:30 start time works best as the coolest time is when the sun comes up a little later. We are starting our Monsoon season so it is a little more humid than usual now. A dip in the pool (which almost everyone has) helps on our return, including the dog. Report
    I live in Texas myself and know about the heat. I get up at 430am just to take my morning walk before the heat gets to bad. But I just make sure I keep a bottle of water with me during my walk. Report
    Great advice for Australian members. Hydration is an absolute necessity even on warm winter days here. Report
    It rarely gets hot on the Oregon coast, which is why I live here. I do not do anything but wilt in the heat. Still, everyone should know how to deal with the heat. It seems if there's a heat wave inland, there's some reason why we have to go up to the big city--doctor's appointment or something. On those days, we can't wait to get over the mountains and watch the car thermometer count down as we go back down the ocean side. Report
    Here in San Antone, with the temps getting high enough to almost break records every day (for 23 days), I try to do as much as I can before the temps start rising in the mornings. I've also started going to the gym and take advantage of my treadmill just to prevent being in the heat. Report
    I am another triathlete in Mohave County AZ. Where I live we edure extremely hot summer conditions usually the hottest in the nation. Right now I believe it's 117+ outside. I get up at 4:30 am and hit the road running shortly thereafter and am done with my run around 6 a.m. This time of year we are lucky to see night time temps under 90 and sometimes it is closer to 100. Once the sun is actually up it is time to go inside. I like others here in AZ can't wait til the temps cool down at night so our morning runs / workouts are in the low 80s or below. :) Then, we REALLY appreciate the cool in the air. Stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, only wear light colored wicking clothes, bring water and a cell phone, and run/workout outdoors before the sun rises. Share the Spark! Report
    Here in Yuma AZ it is difficult to be a runner in the summer (unless you enjoy running the treadmill indoors, which i do not.) Even in the dark hours outside it feels like you are in a hot clothesdryer...this morning i attempted an outside run and it was already 85 and it was only 530 am....we have an expected high of 114 today...needless to say i will be back on the treadmill tomorrow and looking forward to cooler days come October! Report
    I try to get out as early as possible or go late in the evening. In the event I feel the need to go ahead and workout (like when I have an evening engagement) and its hot as Hades outside, I'll suck it up & go. I'll tell myself that I'm burning extra calories because its so hot. I do try to drink more water to compensate for the extra heat. Report
    I do early morning walk- on the treadmill. In lower AL we had had lots of heat- so for the summer I use the treadmill and exercise bike inside instead of being outside. Report
    Thanks, Nancy! I too reside in the Lone Star state and make every effort to be done with my walk or run before 7:30 A.M. if possible during the summer months while I take a break from teaching. When the school year starts, the 5:15 or 5:30 A.M. start time is mandatory as I need time to cool off before getting ready to work with my young people. Report
    I've been staying out of this crazy TEXAS heat, except for going to the pool:-). A few weeks ago I attempted to walk/jog outside at 6:30am but it was too difficult and I didn't get much of a workout. So, I'll be indoors all summer. Report
    it was in the low 60's and raining this heat issue in Nova Scotia. I had to take a hot shower after I was done to warm up. :-) so if you need cool weather, come see me! Report
    I live in Tucson, Arizona, and the temperature was supposed to be up to 111 degrees this weekend. I think we may top out at 107. Lucky us and poor Phoenix! Heard they were 114 yesterday! Regardless, it is HOT here, and it can get very humid with the summer thunderstorms.

    I am a walker and some of my tricks are to stay VERY hydrated all the time. Water is a main staple, and I go through gallons of it every day. The other trick is to break up walks during the day. I get in 20 minutes in the morning walking to work, blast out for 30 minutes at lunch, and then 10 more minutes walking home. Without trying too hard, I've got in an hour by the time I get home and the only really bad part was at lunch. I dodge in and out of the shade and take a lot of papertowels with me to sop up the sweat! Later in the day, when the sun goes down, I take the dog out for another 15 minutes. On the weekends, I either get out there before things heat up (today it was 6:45 to 7:30 a.m.) or go out after the sun goes down.

    I think there are some issues with water weight when things heat up, so I am hoping they drop off as the heat does as well!

    Walk on and no excuses!

    Danette Report
    I live in Israel so I usually try to take my walks close to sunset. This is also a good time to catch a breeze! Report
    I am a runner and triathlete, so training in the heat is part of my daily routine unfortunately. I mostly have tried to run in the early mornings, 5AM, in order to get those runs done before the pavement heats up and the temps get worse. I live in East Dallas and man it has been in the 100's for the past couple of weeks....well, we're supposed to get a "cold" front next week so that'll bring the temps down to 98...brrrrr! I almost always carry a fuel belt or a water bottle that I have frozen the previous evening. I did make the mistake of getting out yesterday morning and running at almost 10am when the temps were already rising but I had my cap, sunglasses, frozen water and lots of sunscreen on. Cycling is not so bad in the heat because you can carry much more and I swim indoors mostly unless I have an open water swim and in that case we'll swim early morning or late afternoon too.

    As for the ice idea, well, putting the ice on my head wouldn't work here, as our heads get hotter than probably any part of our bodies so I'd be 2 min. into my run and it'd be pure that wouldn't work....LOL!

    Good advice though Nancy. Thanks and Sparkon! Report
    It is funny that the little skinny guys who win the Boston Marathon are often from the desert area of Africa where they run in the heat and think nothing of the temperature in Boston. Report
    early in the morning walk Report
    early in the morning walk Report