I think if there’s anything the last couple of weeks have inspired me to do, it’s to write about how to safely exercise when it’s hot outside. If you’re like me and live in a state where the heat waves have hit early and don’t seem to want to back off, you might wonder if it’s possible to remain active. Here’s what I’ve been doing to keep myself and my clients working out without placing our health at risk.
You Can Safely Exercise When It’s Hot Out
A heatwave can be a game changer, definitely, but it doesn’t mean everything needs to grind to a halt. Not if you’re doing things right. This in no way means that I’m recommending that you head out at noon and try for that ultimate cardio workout. Instead, there are some changes you can make to your strategy that will keep you moving while avoiding heatstroke at the same time.
Before you get going, remind yourself that the first and most important rule to being able to safely exercise when it’s hot outside is to know that you might need to slow down/ease up a bit. You might not be skyrocketing forward with your progress during this time, but you’ll be maintaining what you’ve achieved and still getting the health benefits associated with your workouts. This can be frustrating. I get it. But it’s better to maintain what you’ve got than to push yourself too hard and seriously put your health at risk. If you’ve ever had heat exhaustion – let alone heatstroke, which is a lot scarier – then you’ll get it. It’s incapacitating, nauseating, painful, and will cause a lot more setbacks for you than a reduced workout!
That friendly public service announcement aside, let’s get started on my tips.
Top Tips to Safely Exercise When It’s Hot Outside
Use these tips to safely exercise when it’s hot outside. That said, remember that even with these tips, it’s always best to err to the side of caution. If it’s too hot, it’s too hot. If you’re unsure, slow down or stop. A heatwave doesn’t last forever, but the damage caused by a heatstroke can be.
1 – Acclimate
Your body can adapt to a surprising degree. It just needs time. It’s still the start of the summer. We have lots more heat to come. Give yourself a touch of heat exposure each day for at least a week to get your body to acclimate. Start with about 20 minutes of gentle exercise, max. Every day, either boost the intensity a bit, or add 5 minutes. By doing this, your body will adapt over time. You’ll be tempted to rush the process or push yourself if you feel you can do more. Don’t bother. Just use this strategy. If you want to be more active during the same day, fine, but do it in air conditioning.
2 – Do Early Morning Workouts
During a heat wave, it can be toasty out even early in the morning. Still, it’s the best time of day to safely exercise when it’s hot out. It’ll definitely be a lot cooler out there at 6am than it would be just six hours later! Anything before 9am is better than just about any other point in the day, though the earlier the better if you’re on an early morning waking schedule already.
3 – Stay in the Shade
If you’re out for a run and you can choose a shaded route instead of one where the sun is blasting down on you the entire time you’re pounding that asphalt, choose that shady path. It makes a big difference. Keep direct sunlight off you as much as possible to safely exercise when it’s hot out.
4 – Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Avoid chugging water, but have some before you head out, sip regularly throughout your workout (those wearable hydration packs are perfect for running and hiking!) and keep sipping after you’re done. Don’t go longer than 10 minutes without a sip. Don’t worry about sports drinks and electrolytes. If you’re already eating a pretty decent diet, you’re fine. It’s only in the most intense extremes that you’d even need to approach added electrolytes, and even then, the added sugars in most sports drinks make them completely unnecessary.
5 – Dress Appropriately
For the love of all things holy, lose the hoodie. I don’t care if you’re trying to sweat off water weight or some other fad strategy like that. Don’t do it. Not in a heatwave. Wear light fabrics – ideally those with moisture wicking fabrics and mesh panels for added ventilation – in light colors to reflect more sunlight. Wear a brimmed hat. Wear sunscreen (yes, it helps).
6 – Use Chafing Prevention
Whatever gel or petroleum jelly is your favorite method to apply to your skin to avoid chafing, definitely use it at this time of the year. Use close-fitting clothing if it reduces friction on you. If your body type works better with loose, sweat wicking fabrics, go for that instead. Cotton isn’t likely your friend in these instances.
Final Thoughts About Safely Exercising When It’s Hot
Remember, know when to stop. Learn about the signs of heatstroke and how to recognize them in yourself. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. Every ten minutes, when you sip your water, do a bit of a self-check for signs of heatstroke or heat exhaustion. If you show any, it’s time to give yourself the opportunity to cool down.