Staying Cool in the Summer Heat

August is upon us, and that means that by 8 am, the sun is up and the heat index is reaching 90 degrees. Exercising in the hot, humid environment requires planning and listening to your body in order to reduce your chance of heat related illnesses. Acclimation, hydration, and clothing are key components to making sure your summer workouts are enjoyable and safe. 1. Acclimation – To meet the demands of exercising in heat, it is important to slowly introduce your body to the environment over a 10-14 day period. Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase intensity and duration. If you can, work out early in the morning. I find that if I work out between 6am and 9am the heat is bearable and the there are still areas of shade available.

2. Hydration – Make sure you’re hydrated before you go out. If you plan on going for a run right after you wake up, drink 6-8 ounces before you go out. Depending on the duration of your workout, drinking water during can help. There’s a lot of research on specific amounts to drink according to sweat loss and body weight, but recommendations are changing so often it’s hard to say exactly what is most beneficial. My rule of thumb is to listen to your body. Sipping on water throughout an hour-long workout keeps my energy levels steady without filling up my stomach or making me want to gulp an entire bottle at once. The same goes for drinking after a workout. Again, research varies as to how much water to drink in order to “replenish sweat loss.”  Make sure you replenish with water and sodium. I love coconut water post workout, or even ice cold water with a little salt.

3. Clothing – The key to staying cool is evaporation of sweat. This is the body’s main mechanism of heat loss, and the sooner it starts the better. The more humid it is outside, the more difficult it is for sweat to evaporate off of the skin. Wear light, minimal clothing to maximize skin exposure and select moisture wicking fabrics. One of my favorite things to do after a run or sweaty workout is cool off with an ice-cold towel. Before I leave the house, I put a wet hand towel in a zip lock bag and put it in the freezer. By the time I get back, it’s super refreshing and cools my body down within minutes.