When the weather gets warm, many people ditch the gym and opt to head outside for their workouts. But as the temperatures rise, so does your risk of suffering from a heat-related illness. So whether you’re running, biking, or walking, make sure you’re taking every precaution possible to keep yourself safe during your summer sweat sessions. Check out these six safety tips you should put into practice when heading outdoors.
1. Stay hydrated
When you’re working up a sweat in the summer sun, you can easily lose up to a quart of water an hour, according to How Stuff Works. It is crucial to drink water before, during, and after exercising, so your body doesn’t have the chance to become dehydrated. Make sure it’s strategic sipping, too. You can’t just chug a huge bottle of water and call it a day, because your body can only absorb eight ounces of cold water every 20 minutes. In order to stay hydrated, you need to continue drinking fluids even after you no longer feel thirsty.
If you’re going to be outdoors for a long workout, make sure you bring water with you. Active suggests carrying a bottle of water during your workout, or even investing in a hydration belt that will prevent you from having to hold anything. Take a drink every 15 minutes even if you feel like you’re not thirsty. You can also replenish your electrolytes and salt intake by using capsules, such as SUCCEED, which are small packs of sodium and electrolytes that help keep your system in balance.
2. Acclimate yourself to the heat
“When the weather warms, you need to be acclimated to the temperature change,” William O. Roberts, MD, FACSM, a family medicine and sports medicine doctor, tells Web MD. “Expose yourself regularly.”
It can take up to 14 days for your body to adjust to temperature changes. When you’re preparing for an event you know will take place when the heat is at its worst, you can prepare your body by being active in the heat prior to the event. The easiest way? Get out in the middle of the day when it’s hot, and get your sweat on (carefully), per Web MD.
3. Invest in the right clothing
Pick up some wicking clothes to help you get through summer workouts. The lightweight, breathable clothes pull moisture away from your skin, ensuring you stay cooler (especially if you’re used to wearing cotton during your workouts), Shape explains. A hat or visor will help keep the hot sun off your head and face, which should also help to keep you a bit cooler.
Many of these clothes also come with UPF, which helps protect your skin from the sun. If you’re looking for a little extra protection, opt for a long-sleeve wicking shirt, which will keep you cool and shield your arms from UV rays. Speaking of those pesky rays, make sure to put on sunscreen before heading outdoors!
4. Slow down
Really hot days are not the time to attempt to beat your personal record. Instead, slow down and consider shortening your workout, per Web MD. If you’re working out with a friend who may be at a higher fitness level than you, don’t try and keep up or compete. If it’s humid, just accept you’re going to be going slower; it’s not you — it’s the heat.
Runner’s World writes that for every 10-degree increase in air temperature above 55 degrees, there’s a 1.5 percent to 3 percent increase in average finishing time for a marathon. No matter how hydrated you are, hot and humid weather is going to increase your heart rate and reduce blood flow (and oxygen) to the muscles you use for running, resulting in a slower pace.
“You have to pay attention to perceived effort. It is important to recognize you will be slower than you hoped but effort is the determining factor,” Alan Culpepper, a two-time Olympian, tells Runner’s World.
5. Strategically pick times and places
Mayo Clinic recommends working out either in the morning or evening when it’s likely to be cooler outdoors (especially if you aren’t training for an event.) This means you should avoid exercising from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., which is typically the hottest part of the day. If you’re planning a sweat session for the evening, try to wait until after 6 p.m. Look at the forecast ahead of time and plan. If it’s going to be a real scorcher the next day, it’s always best to shoot for an early morning workout.
While you’re at it, carefully plan your route, too. Find a trail that’s heavily shaded, or even one that is along a beach shoreline, per Shape. You’ll find that a shaded trail or one that’s by water could be 10 or more degrees cooler than opting for a run around your neighborhood.
6. Listen to your body
This one’s key. If you start to feel dizzy, faint, or nauseous, stop immediately. How stuff Works writes that when your body can’t rid itself of excess heat, there can be a sudden rise in body temperature, which can cause hot and dry skin, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and unconsciousness. These symptoms can appear quickly and seemingly out of nowhere, too.
If you start to experience any of these warning signs, it’s important to get to a cool area or immerse yourself in a cool bath to lower your body temperature. When you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. Heatstroke can be fatal.