Exercising over a hot summer can be challenging as our bodies struggle to deal with the increased heat and humidity and keep cool. Usually, our bodies are warmer than the environment – when this changes as a result of rising temperatures or exercise, our muscles regulate heat by releasing sweat, which allows the body to cool down. This becomes dangerous both when we fail to replace the fluids lost in sweat, or when the body is unable to cool itself down and begins to store heat, increasing our core temperature and putting our internal organs and central nervous system at risk.
The result of this can be heat exhaustion and, ultimately, heat stroke. Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps, and an increase in body temperature. Respiratory issues and a loss of consciousness may mean heat stroke has set in and you should seek medical help immediately.
To make sure you avoid these issues, there are several measures you can take to protect your body and ensure you remain safe and healthy while exercising in the summer.
1. Don’t push your body too hard
Exercising when it’s hot places your body under extra strain. It’s important to remain hyper-aware of this, paying close attention to how you’re feeling throughout your workout and respecting your limits. Look out for any sign of light-headedness or weakness and reduce your intensity or stop training.
Understanding that you are not going to be setting any personal bests, or performing to your usual standard or intensity, is really important. Don’t push yourself too hard and make sure you take consistent breaks to allow your body to regulate its temperature.
2. Aim to exercise at a cooler part of the day
Exercising during the hottest part of the day is a bad idea, especially if you’re sensitive to the heat. Make the effort to either wake up early and squeeze a workout in before the day warms up or wait until later in the night once the heat of the day has started to dissipate. Not only will your workout be much more enjoyable, but you’ll be able to perform much better.
3. Wear the right clothing
Making sure you wear the right type of clothing can be incredibly helpful in keeping your cooler during your workout. Choose breathable, lightweight, and light-coloured workout gear that will allow your sweat to evaporate, and you to cool down effectively. Sweat-wicking fabric will also help you avoid skin irritation and heat rash.
If you’re exercising outdoors, make sure you wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.
4. Keep hydrated!
One of the most important things you can do when exercising in the heat is make sure you are staying properly hydrated! Guidelines suggest that you should be drinking between six and eight glasses of water each day (the equivalent of around two litres). A good way to see if you’re taking in enough water, is to check the colour of your urine – if it’s darker than the colour of lemonade, you need to up your intake. Likewise, if you haven’t passed urine in around four to six hours, you are not hydrating sufficiently.
If you’re exercising for over an hour, it is a good idea to take in some sort of sports drink to replace lost salts, sugars and electrolytes.
5. Try a different kind of workout
If you’re struggling to keep up with your usual exercise regime, try out a different type of training that will allow your body greater opportunity to remain cool. For instance, if you’re a long-distance runner, try swapping your long runs for a shorter HIIT session or spinning class that will allow you to take on water and work out for shorter periods (in an air-conditioned gym!).
Less aerobic-heavy classes such as yoga or Pilates are also a good option in the heat as your heart rate does not typically increase by a large margin, and your body temperature will remain fairly constant. The summer is also prime time for swimming – not only is swimming incredible exercise, but there is no better way to stay cool while working out, even if you do it outdoors.
If you did want to exercise outside, David Lloyd’s Head Trainer, Alastair Crew, has some tips on how you can do that:
“Combine unsuitable exercise with extreme heat and you can be placing your body under unnecessary stress. Apart from the things we regularly hear about such as taking frequent breaks, preventing dehydration by increasing fluid intake and looking for shaded areas to exercise, we can also help ourselves even further by considering the following:
Lying/floor-based exercises will be useful – we know that heat rises, so staying low to the ground can help us stay cooler. For example, you could select different core exercises in prone or supine positions. And bodyweight movements, such as crawl patterns, can provide a total body workout, help us with our mobility and dose our bodies with much needed movement nutrition!
- To prevent overheating, you may need to strip out the intensity or shorten or split-up your usual workouts. You can stretch out your recovery periods too
- Get in the water! If we have access to a pool, swapping our usual routine for swimming can be one of the best ways to help us stay cool
- Look for the cooler outdoor spaces, shaded forest or a breeze on the coastline can provide great relief
- Pick your work out gear wisely. Lighter, whiter colours can help you regulate your body temperature better than darker colours that tend to absorb and hold on to more heat
- Check the colour of your urine to ensure you are not dehydrated. A pale yellow or straw-coloured is ideal…darker than that and we need to drink more water.”
If you are looking for further advice on exercising safely and effectively during the summer, visit your local David Lloyd Club where one of our trainers will be happy to advise.