In case you haven’t noticed, it’s summer!! The weather has heated up quite nicely for those of us craving the beach and outdoor fun, but for those who enjoy working out outdoors or partaking in things like running, it can get risky. Heat stroke is a very real danger, and without the proper protection and safety precautions, one can get seriously hurt! So what’s a devoted fitness geek to do?
Samuel N. Cheuvront, PhD, a research physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine has some sensible advice: “Match your workout to the weather by slowing down during exercise and seeking shade afterward,” he says. Sound entirely too obvious? You might think that, but you would also probably be surprised at how many people manage to forget this same solid advice when they are actually out in the “heat” of the moment!
But fear not! As always, Heroic Health & Well-Being is here with some tips to be on top of your outdoor exercise game.
- Stay hydrated! Cheuvront advises following the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine: make sure to have eight to 12 ounces about 15 minutes prior to your workout. Sip three to eight ounces every 15 or 20 minutes as you go, and don’t forget to drink after your workout! After that, stay well hydrated throughout the day by drinking at least eight additional cups of water
- Mind the 90-degree line: when the mercury is above 90 – the temperature of the surface of your skin – you’ll gain heat from the air around you. After that, your body heat will have nowhere to go. At that tipping point, you’ll sweat more and your body temperature will rise rapidly, making you more susceptible to heat-related illness. Take it easy, or else go inside
- Pick sunrise or sunset: your best bet on a hot day is to head out in the early morning or evening, when your shadow is twice as long as you are tall. According to the National Weather Service, exposure to direct sunlight can increase how hot it feels by as many as 15 degrees
- Field the Heat: ALWAYS check the heat index – a combination of air temperature and humidity – rather than your thermometer to get a better idea of the real feel outside. (For example, at 70% humidity, an 84-degree day can feel as if it is 90). “Also, the more humid it becomes, the less your sweat evaporates from your skin, meaning your body’s key cooling mechanism is disabled,” says Michael Bergeron, PhD, the executive director of the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute. To exercise sun smart, determine the day’s heat index (see the National Weather Service’s guide), then follow the guidelines below.
- Higher than 104 degrees: no-brainer: Move it indoors, because you’re at severe risk of heat-related illness, including heatstroke (a 100-degree day with just 40 percent humidity will feel like 109 degrees)
- Between 91 and 103 degrees: exercise early in the morning, when it’s coolest, and keep your workout superlight
- Between 80 and 90 degrees:keep workouts shorter than usual and moderate, like this routine:
- 0 to 10 minutes: jog at an easy, conversational pace
- 10 to 15 minutes: run at a harder pace (90 percent of maximum heart rate) for 30 seconds, followed by a 30-second recovery jog. Repeat four times.
- 15 to 25 minutes: jog at an easy, conversational pace
- 79 degrees or lower: save your long or most challenging workouts for these milder days, and move indoors when it’s super hot outside
A common mistake that many people make when they think about working out outdoors is that they completely miss many of the potential things that they can do to stay in shape! Things like playing games with your family or friends outside, going for hikes, or even joining a group that does tai-chi or yoga outdoors are all great ways to stay fit outside this summer.
Find something that you enjoy… try new things, and then stick with the ones that feel best for your body and your routine. Variety is key!
Working out outdoors is a great way to change up your exercise routine, but when you are taking silly chances or huge risks, it can get to be less so. Stay smart, and stay safe! Always listen to your body and working out outdoors in the summer months can be an amazing and fun way to stay in shape!