By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
When it comes to fitness, summer can bring both the best of times and the worst of times.
On one hand, you get to leave the dark, cramped gyms that have consumed your life all winter and take your workouts to the great outdoors. On the other hand, the heat can be brutal and unforgiving if you aren’t prepared for it. With heatwaves bringing record-breaking temperatures on a global scale, these less than ideal training conditions can drain the fun out of any workout.
Since I want the warmer weather to amplify your health and not take away from it, here are some tips to help you survive the summer heat and crush your fitness goals.
You’ve probably already heard that water is a pretty big deal when it comes to the normal operation of the human body. Even though our bodies are made up of around 60% of this liquid, most of us walk around habitually dehydrated. When it comes to getting the best results, that just doesn’t cut it. Think of it like this: losing as little as 2% of your Bodyweight in fluids could lead to a measurable decrease in athletic performance. One study out of the Georgia Institute of technology even showed that dehydration leads to shape changes inside of the brain, intensifying neural signaling and making normally easy tasks much more difficult to execute.
In the summer heat, staying hydrated only gets more difficult. Some symptoms to look out for are thirst, fatigue/weakness, nausea, and muscle cramping. In more severe situations these symptoms could include vomiting, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness.
When working out in higher temperatures, it’s about much more than just replenishing water. It’s also about replenishing the salt and electrolytes that you lose as well. During exercise, aim to drink 8-10 oz of water every 15-20 minutes. For longer training sessions lasting upwards of 60 minutes or higher intensity activity, you may want to consider supplementing with a sports drink or similar solution (part carb, part protein, part electrolytes). Post-workout, aim to drink 16-18oz of fluid for every pound of bodyweight lost. Focus on sipping the water slowly (your GI tract will thank you) and check for light-colored urine to ensure that you are getting enough H2O.
If you don’t already own a water bottle, I highly recommend the Mobot because not only will it hydrate you, but it also doubles as an awesome recovery tool. Check out my review here.
While the warm weather can be a much welcome change of pace, you don’t have to aim to be your best outdoors when the temperature is at its highest. The temperature tends to be at its highest between 10am-3pm, so opting for early morning workouts or circling back in the evening when things have cooled down a bit are good options. The high temperatures and high humidities that come along with the summer months are the perfect recipe for a heat injury (heat exhaustion, heatstroke, etc) as hard work/dehydration can cause heat production in the body to exceed heat loss. If you experience fatigue, rapid breathing, dizziness, clammy skin, and excessive sweating, don’t just chalk it up to a tough workout. Get out the heat and move to a cool place where you can hydrate. If conditions don’t improve or worsen don’t hesitate to seek medical attention.
If you know that the conditions will be rough, make sure you are properly prepared to outlast them safely and effectively. Use sunscreen! It’s important to protect your skin from potential burns. Wear light-colored clothing that will help reflect heat instead of absorbing it. If running or training outdoors, try to find a shaded trail or location to call your gym for the day. Don’t set yourself up for failure by ignoring these often forgotten factors.
When all else fails, you have to know when to throw in the towel. If you hear about a potential heatwave where temperatures and humidity may be above normal levels, then sometimes you have to just be able to make the decision to skip that day’s workout. You may lose this one battle, but when implementing the tips above, you will surely win the war.