I enjoy the long hours of sunlight during the summer since it means I can get out earlier to run, but I don’t enjoy the heat. Oh, I love summer and warm weather, but I prefer running in the winter (except in icy conditions). Layering keeps me warm, and it doesn’t take too long for my body to adjust to the cold and feel very comfortable.
Exercising in hot weather, especially when it’s humid, takes more energy and is harder to do. Yet, if you are aware of these factors, and you follow these precautions, you can be safe and happy exercising throughout the summer.
1. The most important consideration is hydration.
Who hasn’t heard: “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day”? That’s a great start, but if you’re exercising or trying to lose weight, you need to drink more. Also, the more you weigh, the more water you need to consume to keep your body functioning properly, especially in the summer.
At first, it may seem difficult to consume the right amount of water, but your body will adjust and you will look and feel better when you consume the right amount of water. (And I do mean water, not sodas, tea, coffee, or other such beverage.) To see if you are getting enough water, check the color of your urine. It should be clear or a pale yellow. If it’s dark, drink a pint (16 ounces) of water as soon as possible.
Try to have water available as you exercise and drink at least one pint before your workout. Drink as much as you can during and after your routine. When I do my aerobic routines, I have a bottle of water handy. On long runs and bike rides, I carry water with me, or I plan my runs around places where I can get water, such as parks, public libraries, fast food restaurants, etc. I could say so much more about water, but check out this page on fluids here.
2. Wear sunglasses.
Your eyes are one of the most precious assets you have, and you need to protect them from the sun’s harmful rays. Buy yourself a good pair of sunglasses that block out the sun’s ultraviolet rays and then wear them.
Although I run very early mornings, I take my sunglasses with me. When the sun comes up, the sunglasses go on. Yes, it adds a “little extra weight,” but I have found that, psychologically, the sunglasses help keep me cooler since it seems like I’m running in the shade. Also, I no longer squint at the sun while I’m running.
Wearing sunglasses also helps to prevent a certain kind of cataract. “Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may increase your risk of cortical cataracts, which typically affect the outer edge of the lens of the eye.” However, if you are diligent about wearing sunglasses when outside, you will have “significantly less lens clouding from cortical cataracts than non-wearers of sunglasses” (according to a recent study).
3. Wear head protection to protect yourself from the sun and keep your head and face cool.
Whenever possible, I start my runs before the sun comes up so I am finished before the day gets too hot. I wear a hat during the very cold winter months and when it rains, but I find that during the summer a hat makes me hot. You can also try vented hats.
4. Wear sunblock on all exposed areas.
Wear a sunblock with at least an SPF of 15, although the higher the protection, the better. If possible, apply the sunblock 30 minutes before going outside. And don’t let an overcast sky fool you into thinking you won’t get sun exposure. I made the mistake of not wearing sunblock to a race on an overcast day. Rain was in the forecast, but the sun broke through during the awards ceremony. That night, I had to deal with painful sunburn on my exposed upper arms and shoulders.
5. Cover as much of your body as possible.
I’m not saying you have to wear long pants or long sleeves, but exposing more skin also exposes you to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. Men, you might feel more comfortable with your shirt off, but leaving it on will protect you better from the sun.
6. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
I recommend special synthetic fabrics such as CoolMax and DriFit which wick away sweat and moisture from the skin. For several months, I ran in a cotton t-shirt, shorts, and socks. After a long or hard run, my clothes were drenched, even in the winter. When I bought my first CoolMax shirt, I noticed the difference immediately.
7. In the summer, avoid exercising during the middle of the day or early afternoon when the sun is the hottest.
Early morning is the coolest part of the day. Even the early evening can be very hot.
8. Sometimes, even early morning can be extremely hot and humid.
When this happens, you may want to consider exercising inside.
9. Cool down with some simple stretches.
You may be hot and tired after your routine, but don’t neglect this important part of your exercise regimen. Stretching for a few minutes will help cool you down and relax your muscles.
I know most people have no problem with this and would gladly use rest as an excuse for not exercising. I sometimes have days when I don’t feel like getting up and exercising. Too many other responsibilities press on my time, or I would love to get a few more minutes of sleep. Those are the days when I tell myself to do a few minutes of my aerobic routine or run an easy mile. Then, I assess how I feel. Usually, I’m starting to feel better, and I finish my intended routine.
Occasionally, however, I have come to the conclusion after a mile of running or 10-15 minutes of aerobics that my body cannot do the usual hour or more I had planned. Instead, I have an easy day of some simple stretches.
I’ve learned from experience that pushing too hard at the wrong times can lead to injury and fatigue. It’s far better, to ease up on the training or take an extra day off when your body needs time to rest rather than pushing yourself and then be forced to take off more time in the end to recuperate from injuries.
If you are exercising and you start feeling dizzy, nauseated, excessively thirsty, or unusually fatigued, lower the intensity of your workout or stop. Drink plenty of fluids and take a cool shower.
Summer may be hot, but you can safely exercise and survive the heat if you heed these 10 tips.