How to Safely Work Out In The Heat

If you want to work out in a heat wave, be sure to take the proper precautions.

Outdoor workout image via shutterstock

Outdoor workout image via shutterstock

With temps and humidity on the rise, it’s important to take extra precautions when working out. Hot temperatures make us susceptible to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke if we aren’t careful during exercise, particularly when outdoors. Exercising in an air conditioned gym is always your best bet in a heat wave, but if you still want to be outside (we get it, it was a long winter), try these tips to keep your cool.

Acclimate your body to the heat. Your body isn’t going to react the same in the extreme heat, so don’t jump right into your usual workout routine on the first day out. You’ll sweat more, which means your body is taking energy away from your muscles as it has to work a lot harder to keep you cool. You’ll notice your heart beating faster than normal and if you aren’t careful you may even feel nauseous or dizzy. Instead, try to tone down your workout a bit, or cut the time in half. This will give your body time to adjust to the extra stress resulting from the hot temperatures. Consider going for a power walk or bike ride instead of a run. Gradually increase the intensity each day until you get back up to your regular exercise routine.

Avoid exercising during the peak of the heat. Unless you’re preparing for a midday event, there’s really is no value in pushing yourself through a grueling workout when the sun is at it’s hottest. My advice is to get out there before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. when temperatures are likely to be a little cooler.

Dress appropriately; less is more in the heat. Wear shorts and a loose fitting tank top. Your clothes should be light in color because dark colors tend to soak up extra heat from the sun. Try wearing a shirt made of sweat-wicking material to keep you cool. Something like Nike Dri-Fit or Adidas Climacool should do the trick. Wearing a hat or visor made of a light, breathable material is also a great way to keep the sun off of your face and the sweat out of your eyes.

Stay hydrated. This may seem like a no-brainer but you would be surprised by how much extra water your body needs in the heat. Hot, humid days can double the amount you sweat on a normal day. You’ll need to drink roughly 16 ounces of water after a workout. But it’s not all about replenishing after exercise, it also helps to be proactive. To avoid dehydration, drink 16 to 20 ounces of water two hours prior to exercise and another eight ounces a half an hour before. If you are exercising first thing in the morning be sure to properly hydrate the day before. During your workout you’ll want to take a sip of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to rehydrate; it’s wise to stay ahead of the game. If you plan to exercise for a longer duration or at a higher intensity level consider having a sports performance drink to replenish the electrolytes you’ll lose as you sweat.

Wear sunscreen. Not just for the obvious reason, to protect your skin from the sun, but to help your body stay cool. A sunburn decreases the body’s ability to cool itself which puts you at even a higher risk of heat stroke. You’ll want a lotion geared towards working out so that you don’t sweat off all of your sun protection, and be sure to reapply.

Use common sense. Take cover in the shade when possible and take into account what you did the day before. If you had an intense workout you may be less hydrated than normal. Be sure to make up for it by drinking extra water prior to your next workout. If you start to feel dizzy, nauseous, weak, or confused you could be suffering from a heat-related illness. Stop your workout, drink some water and find shelter from the heat indoors.