How To Work Out Outside Safely When It's Really, Really Hot
Let's face it: The calendar might say that summer is coming to an end, but we're still dealing with some pretty hot temperatures (and less than pleasant humidity). But given that the weather isn't technically inclement, it makes sense that many fitness enthusiasts still want to take their training outdoors.
Exercising in the heat does pose certain challenges but can be done safely by taking precautions. The body cools itself by carrying heat toward the surface of the skin. If the outside temperature is cooler, then the heat is obviously carried away, and when the outside temperature is warmer, the body reacts by perspiring. This process cools us when our sweat evaporates. Armed with this knowledge, we can set ourselves up for success by training intelligently outdoors during the summertime.
So with that said, here are some tips if you want to brave the heat.
Work out in the morning or evening.
In the morning and evening, temperatures are generally lower, making these times ideal to get your workout in. No matter what time of day you're training, however, you should try and do it in shaded areas whenever possible and, of course, dress appropriately. Breathable, light fabrics are top choices, and many sports brands are now providing clothing with an added UPF bonus to protect your skin from the sun as well. For all skin-exposed areas, sunscreen is a must and needs to be reapplied every hour or two while outdoors.
Be realistic and patient—especially if it's humid.
Humidity poses an extra challenge when trying to cool ourselves. If our body is producing sweat but the air is very humid, then evaporation becomes more difficult. For this reason we need to be realistic and perhaps rest or train indoors on certain days that are extremely hot and humid. Common sense is key.
Performing the same activity in a cool gym versus outdoors in hot conditions will feel like night and day until acclimatized. Adjust training intensity and duration accordingly so that the demand placed on the body is appropriate. Over time (and with repeated exposure to activity in the heat), you will be able to adjust and increase that intensity and duration. This can often be accomplished in two weeks or so with repeated daily or regular heat exposure. Exercise performance will improve, cardiovascular function will improve, and you'll notice yourself sweating more and sweating earlier on. The important thing here is to listen to your body and respect your limits as you adjust.
No matter what, stay hydrated.
Dehydration is a major concern when training outdoors. It is imperative to have water and electrolyte beverages on hand (especially if you're working out for longer periods of time). Ensure that you're drinking regularly while outdoors and continuing to do so even after you're indoors. The color of your urine should ideally be a light, pale yellow—anything darker typically means you're dehydrated. And remember, if you're feeling thirsty, that means you're already dehydrated.
Don't ignore your body's stop signs.
Heatstroke happens when your body overheats and reaches a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius or higher (104 degrees Fahrenheit). It can result in organ damage and requires emergency treatment—in some cases it can even be fatal. The signs and symptoms of heatstroke to watch out for include nausea and vomiting, confusion, racing heart rate, and rapid breathing.
Heat exhaustion in comparison isn't as serious as heatstroke, but when left untreated can develop into the latter. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion to watch out for include weakness, headache, dizziness, and profuse sweating. If you start experiencing any signs or symptoms of heat exhaustion, that is the time to immediately cease activity. Seek shelter in a cool, shaded area with air conditioning indoors if possible and begin hydrating. Do not ignore signs of heat injury.
Training outdoors is a great way to break out of the monotony of working out in the gym. It's low to no cost, convenient, and when taking precautions, it can be done safely. So get out there, get active, and enjoy the rest of the summer, while you still can!