It’s been a rainy summer in North Carolina. I love cooler weather when it comes to fitness, but even I have been longing for hot, sunny days. I realize, though, that I need to be careful what I hope for! I was in New York City last week, where its hot, hot, hot. My daughter has been interning on Capitol Hill this summer and last week it hit 100 degrees more than once. She told me she went for a run and the heat and humidity were stifling. Following are nine tips for keeping up with fitness during the dog days of summer.
1. EXERCISE EARLY. My favorite time of day to run has always been the early dawn hours, and in the summer it is even more important. I am talking early, though. Between 5 and 5:30 am is usually the coolest, and even in those last minutes of darkness, the air is still heavy and warm. But coming in from a run around 6:45 is so much better than even a few hours later. You might be tired later, but in this summer heat, I’ll take fatigue over sweltering heat any day!
2. TRY PRE-COOLING. Make a slushie before you run. If you have a blender (when my husband got sick we bought a VitaMix and have never regretted it), mix lemonade(or tea) and ice and drink a small glass before venturing out in the heat for a run. This pre-cooling effect only lasts for about 30-45 minutes, so be sure to have cold water with you as well. Which brings me to #3.
3. HYDRATE ALL DAY. I am not talking about coffee, tea, or sodas here. Water is the only real hydration our bodies need when we are normally active during the day. Even if you don’t have a workout planned for the day, drink more water than you normally do when the temperatures rise above 80 consistently. This way, when you do get up in the morning to run…your body is not already in a deficit regarding hydration. I try to drink a bottle of water right when I wake up and then about every 2-3 hours throughout the day I drink some form of water (Vitamin Water, etc.). I drink even when I’m not thirsty.
4. TAKE TOUGH WORKOUTS INSIDE. If you are training for something and need to get some speed workouts in, find an indoor track or (I can’t believe I am going to say it) a treadmill for your tough workouts. You will be able to train better, harder, and more efficiently without battling the torturous heat. I have to admit I am grateful not to be training for anything right now…but if you are, just be smart about those harder speed days! Training or not, your body will benefit from an indoor workout that focuses on multiple areas and one that keeps you moving. Try doing a series of push ups (on and off physio ball), planks, squats, and lunges…doing 12-15 reps and run through the sequence three times. This will get you sweating…even indoors!
5. SWIM LAPS. I am still trying to get in to the pool for a workout this summer, and I am determined to make it happen. We belong to a nearby pool and my older children can watch my four year old while I swim for 30 minutes….just have to do it! As you can see, this is as much a message for me as for anyone. Swimming is still my #1 favorite all-body workout…I love the feeling after I finish a water workout!
6. TAKE A DAY OR TWO OFF…BUT EAT A LITTLE LESS. Summer is an easy time of year to eat a little less than we normally do. We are feeling heavy with the heat, and lighter meals can be a refreshing change. Fresh fruit and vegetables are abundant and make great meals by themselves. If you have to skip a workout because it is just too darn hot, simply cut back on the amount of food you eat during the day. Eat mostly fruit and vegetables on the days you cannot exercise. I often find I do better when I don’t exercise because I’m not as hungry and I keep my mind more focused on healthier eating.
7. CHANGE THINGS UP. Maybe it’s time to use that free yoga class pass you recieved in the mail. Or to try the new spin class at the YMCA. Hey…try a barre class! Summertime is a great time to change up your exercise and try new things. Our metabolism gets a little lazy with workouts that are too familiar anyway….surprise it with a totally new kind of fitness!
8. EXERCISE WITH FRIENDS. You will be less likely to bail on a hot day if you have made a date to meet up with a running friend. Always works for me!
9. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Don’t be foolish. If you are outside exercising, and you start to feel dizzy or nauseous, stop whatever you are doing. Drink something and find shade or go inside for a few minutes. Even avid exercisers can overheat and suffer heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Know the signs!