Summer is a terrific time for exercising out in the great outdoors, whether lounging at the beach or taking on triathlons. Fresh air, sunshine and scenery are invigorating and revitalizing. However, hot temperatures, humidity and lots of sun exposure also can bring risks, especially when you are pushing yourself and raising your core temperature during workouts. Increased core temperature and dehydration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, which can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include a core body temperature of 102° to 104°F, headache, fatigue, profuse sweating, nausea and clammy skin; treatment includes cold packs, drinking fluids with sodium and rest. Heat stroke is characterized by a core body temp of 104° or more, headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse and disorientation. This is a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate intervention.
Stay smart and safe when exercising in the heat by being aware of the following:
- Pay attention to the weather – This is easy now with smartphones, as you can conveniently check forecasts. Note humidity levels, which can impede sweat evaporation and your ability to keep cool.Watch for heat alerts, as well as predictions of thunderstorms.
- Don’t exercise in the heat of the day – Perform workouts in the early morning or evening, before the sun rises or after it sets, to avoid the hottest hours of the day. Seek shady areas where possible.
- Dress appropriately – Choose your apparel based on the weather forecast and your comfort. Ditch cotton T-shirts that soak up sweat and become heavy in favor of cooler, dry-fit fabrics that breathe better. Darker colors can absorb heat, so opt for light colors and lightweight fabrics. Wear a hat if possible to block the sun, along with sunglasses.
- Wear sunscreen – This should go without saying to protect your skin. A sunburn reduces the body’s ability to cool itself, so find an athletic sunscreen that won’t wear off when you sweat, and apply to all exposed body parts. Don’t forget a balm for your lips as well.
- Allow yourself to acclimate – After a season of exercising inside or in cooler temperatures, it can take up to two weeks for your body to adjust to heat and humidity. Don’t go all-out on your first few outdoor workouts, but pace yourself, limit intensity and duration, which you can gradually increase as you acclimate.
- Hydrate often – Carry water with you if possible, or choose a route that has water fountains. Dehydration contributes to fatigue and heat illness. Drink before, during and after workouts to be safe. Aim for 16 ounces of a sports drink or water an hour before you head out. Then take five to eight ounces of sports drink or water about every 20 minutes. And if you’re planning a long session, bring sports drinks also to replace electrolytes you lose in sweat.
- Be flexible – If temperatures and humidity levels are soaring, or ozone and air pollution are high, consider changing your outdoor session to a pool workout, where you can be cooler, or move indoors for greater comfort. Don’t schedule a particularly grueling workout routine on a scorching day.
- Stay smart – If you start to feel weak, lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous or just not right, then immediately slow down or stop your workout rather than try to push through. Drink plenty of water, seek cooler temperatures and rest. If symptoms continue or worsen, consult with a medical professional. You may be suffering from heat illness.
Summer is an ideal time to exercise outdoors, so take advantage of running, walking, hiking, biking, inline skating, swimming, sports and more. Just be cautious to help prevent any problems! Stay Fueled.