It’s been scorchio in the UK this week! Have you been making the most of the good weather? Or is exercising in the heat too much for you to deal with? (And sunbathing with an ice cream too tempting.)
I have to admit to having a bit of a love-hate relationship with the heat. Sun is great. Warmth is lovely. But as the thermometer starts to rise, I begin to wilt. Much above twenty degrees (centigrade, for you non-Brits) and I’m scurrying for a patch of shade. Ironically, my better half is something of a sun lover. Which makes for a heated debate about optimum climbing conditions when we climb in hotter parts of the world.
Although exercising in the heat can have benefits, particularly if you’ve got a race in a hot country coming up, it also has dangers. Exercising raises your body temperature and, if you’re already hot from being in the sun, this could push it to dangerously high levels. Dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all things to watch out for.
Here are some tips for staying safe when exercising in the heat.
Exercise Early In the Morning
You can beat the heat by exercising first thing in the morning. Try and juggle your schedule so you can get out early, or get up an hour earlier in the morning to take advantage of the coolest part of the day.
If you’re really not a morning person then exercising late at night is another option. It’ll still be warm and muggy, but you won’t have the sun blazing down on you.
Dehydrating is one of the main risks when exercising in the heat. Although you may want to carry water or an electrolyte solution when training, it’s just as important to make sure you’re hydrated before you start. This can be tricky if you’re exercising first thing in the morning, as you’ll dehydrate overnight. (Unless you’re one of those crazy people who doesn’t sleep.)
If you’re exercising in the evening, check the colour of your pee throughout the day. Pale yellow is good, dark yellow or brown means you need to drink more. Checking your pee is a good way of making sure you’re not drinking more than you need to.
Make Sure You’re Replacing Sodium
When you sweat, you’re not just sweating out water but also sodium. Our bodies need sodium to help keep a proper balance of water and for nerve and muscle function. You’re likely to get most of the sodium you require from your food, but your body may crave a little extra salt during hot weather.
An electrolyte solution can help rebalance your sodium levels after a hard workout (as opposed to energy drinks which tend to be full of sugar). Don’t overdo the electrolytes though as you could end up with too much sodium in your body.
Slap On the Sunscreen
As you’ll be sweating off sunscreen, you may want to opt for a higher factor sunscreen when exercising. You want something that’s water resistant, at least SPF 30 and protects from both UVA and UVB rays. If you’re doing a long run, hike or bike ride, you’ll probably need to reapply sunscreen part way through.
Take It Easy When Exercising In the Heat
If you’re used to training in cooler temperatures the heat can feel debilitating at first. You may feel slow and sluggish and be tempted to push harder as a result. But listen to your body. If it’s telling you to slow down, then slow down. You can start increasing the length and duration of your workout when your body begins to acclimatise to the heat.
Wear Loose, Light-Coloured Clothing
Light-coloured clothing will help reflect the heat and loose clothing allows air to reach your skin and cool you down. Save the dark, tight clothing for winter.
Now, we all know I’m a fan of the outdoors. The whole point of this blog is to promote and encourage you all to get outdoors! But, even I have to admit that sometimes gyms have their place. Not that being in a sweaty gym is the most pleasant experience. But at least most of them have air conditioning. So if the mercury in the thermometer continues to rise, going to the gym may be a safer option than exercising in the heat.