We know it’s hot out there, and you need to exercise, but it’s important to take precautions. This week Shape turns to the experts to learn how to train the body to handle the heat.
Moving your 30-minute run from the treadmill one day out into the midday sun the next isn’t a good idea. Your body needs time to acclimatize to higher temps and other environmental changes. “It usually takes 10 to 14 days of heat exposure combined with exercise to reduce an individual’s risk for heat injury,” says Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
How will you know your body has adapted? You’ll sweat more and sooner, but you’ll be losing fewer electrolytes, Bryant says, adding that properly allowing your body to adjust ultimately leads to a lower body core temperature, a decreased heart rate response to exercise, and a diminished potential for dehydration and electrolyte depletion.
Start with 10- to 15-minute doses of outdoor exercise and try to avoid heading out during peak temperature and humidity (from 1 to 5 p.m.), says Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery. Gradually increase your workout time over the next 10 to 14 days to ensure your body safely acclimates.
1. Drink up (and not just water)
You know staying hydrated is important, but it’s especially crucial when working out in warmer temps. Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, and anxiety, while severe dehydration can cause fever, shriveled skin, and even unconsciousness (scary!). A simple test to check your hydration level? Peek into the toilet. If your urine is dark in color and/or has an odor, chances are you need to up your water intake.
Most experts recommend drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water every day, Olson says, who suggests downing eight ounces of H2O about 20 minutes before an outdoor workout and then eight more ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during your session.
To refuel your body after a supersweaty run, head to happy hour! According to researchers at the University of Granada in Spain, beer may help hydrate your body after a workout better than water. The reason is that compared to plain H2O, the carbonation in beer actually quenches thirst faster and the carbohydrates replenish the body with calories lost during exercise. But be warned: beer is still high in calories so limit yourself to 16 ounces (the amount study subjects were given) or less to avoid canceling out your workout.
2. Outsmart sports bra chafing
Training for a race? Don’t give skin irritation the chance to hold you back. If you’re prone to heat rash or chafing, try using a powder deodorant spray like Gold Bond No Mess Powder Spray ($7; drugstore.com) on sensitive spots such as your underarms, cleavage, and inner thighs.
For longer runs, consider wearing your sports bra over a thin, moisture-wicking, seamless tank, suggests certified personal trainer Teri Jory, PhD. “The undershirt will act just like your skin and allow your sports bra to support you just as if it was your first layer, while avoiding the painful chafing under your arms, around your rib cage, and on your nipples caused by the friction of your bra.”
3. Dress right
Adding a few additional pieces to your Summer workout wardrobe is well worth the investment. “Wear breathable, lightweight, and light-colored workout attire that permits your sweat to evaporate and include a hat or some sort of sunblocking apparel,” Olson says. Not only will these types of materials help you stay cooler during your workout, but they can help you avoid the skin irritation, breakouts, or heat rashes that can result from extra-sweaty training sessions.
Look for words like “breathable,” “moisture-wicking,” and “mesh” on the label to up your chance of staying cool, dry, and comfortable.
4. Don’t forget to protect your stems
You might be in the habit of rubbing SPF on your face and upper body every day, but many women fail to grease up their exposed gams, which ups their risk for painful sunburn and skin cancer, says Lara Hudson, a certified fitness expert and star of the 10 Minute Solution: Tighten & Tone Pilates DVD.
Research shows the lower leg is one of the most common areas where women develop skin cancer, she says, so be vigilant about wearing sunscreen on every exposed skin cell. Other commonly missed spots include the ears, scalp, and backs of your neck and legs.
See more hot-weather training tips after the break!
5. Reverse your training order
Training for a triathlon? Switch up the order of activities based on when you’ll be warmest. For example, if you’re heading out later in the day, starting with a swim will help keep you cool during cycling and running. For morning sessions, start with running and biking so that you’ll end up in the water later, when it’s much hotter.
“Even if you aren’t hitting the triathlon circuit, this well-rounded routine gives you a great full-body blast,” says Laura Tarbell, a certified personal trainer and owner of Tarbell Pilates.
If you want to give this type of training a try, aim to run (or power walk) for 20 minutes, cycle for 30 minutes, and then swim for 5 to 10 minutes to wrap up your workout. “The variety in this routine sparks your metabolism, and you can stay in the water to cool off for as long as you like after a hot run and bike ride,” Tarbell says.
6. Keep salty snacks on hand
In warmer temps, salt depletion can contribute to heat exhaustion, especially when we rehydrate, but don’t replace the salt lost through sweat, says Peggy Hall, a nutritional therapist and wellness expert. “Sodium and potassium are the main minerals that make up electrolytes, which regulate fluid balance. We lose electrolytes when we sweat, so they need to be replaced by drinking fluids and eating foods rich in these minerals,” Hall says.
One ounce of olives, salted nuts, or pumpkin seeds are all great options to quickly replenish your sodium levels, but the best power snack combines sodium and potassium, Hall says. Try one cup of lowfat plain yogurt (172 milligrams sodium, 573 milligrams potassium) topped with one ounce of pumpkin seeds or a banana (422 milligrams potassium) with a handful of salted nuts (87 milligrams sodium per ounce).
7. Preplan your route
Planning your running route before you head out the door is always a good idea for safety and training tracking, but it will also help you plot crucial water refills, says Liz Neporent, a board member for the American Council on Exercise and coauthor of The Thin in 10 Weight-Loss Plan. There’s even an app to help — Neporent uses Map My Run to pinpoint crucial watering holes along her route before she hits the pavement.
8. Practice precooling
Take a cold shower or drink an icy beverage just before your workout to combat the debilitating effects of high heat and maybe even boost your performance. A recent review of similar precooling methods found that they clearly improved athletes’ performance in a laboratory setting, suggesting that these techniques could be beneficial for outdoor exercisers in hot environmental conditions.
For endurance athletes in especially steamy climates, exercise physiologist Tom Holland, an ultramarathon runner and author of Beat the Gym, suggests cooling devices (like this NikePrecool Vest that was engineered for the Beijing Olympics). “Professional Ironman triathletes have begun wearing one latex glove (like this CoreControl Cooling Glove) filled with ice to keep their core temperatures down during the run,” he says.
9. Listen to your body
Even if you take the utmost precaution, you may still be at risk for overheating, so don’t forget to listen to your body. If you begin to feel confused, dizzy, nauseous, cold and clammy, or have trouble breathing, stop immediately and rest, says Kim Truman, a certified personal trainer and outdoor athletic coach. Always carry your cell phone with you (in case you need to call for help or a ride home), as heat exhaustion and heatstroke can sneak up on you very quickly, she says.