Has anyone else noticed how friggin’ hot it is this summer? It got up to 103 in Boulder this summer and we still have a whole other month to go! I admire all of you dedicated people who are still out running and cycling outdoors, sweating your asses off, despite the heat and humidity. But are you remembering to take care of yourselves in the process? When I was a triathlete, I was so obsessed, I didn’t care what time of day it was. I used to be insane.
I ran a twenty-four hour, six-person team race once. It was an average twenty-four mile race, where each of us had six legs. It was August and it was 100 degrees. I went all out in the first leg and got so dehydrated that by the time I got to legs three and four, I was puking and the race became a miserable experience. I lost seven pounds in one race and got so sick I needed IVs.
It is really easy to wind up with heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke, if you work out in the hottest part of a hot summer day. So, what are some things you can do to avoid injuring yourself in the heat? Here are some suggestions:
Bring plenty of water with you, or plan your route so it includes stops at places to get more. I wear a belt that holds a bottle water on my waist, and I carry one in my hand. I wear thin, light-colored clothing that wicks sweat away from my skin. I also wear a baseball cap that covers my eyes and the top of my head from the direct sun, but still allows the heat I generate to escape. And of course, I put sunscreen on my face, ears, neck, and any part of my body that’s exposed.
Know The Symptoms
When your body gets overheated, it gives off signals that it’s time to slow down or stop altogether and cool off. But it’s hard to notice the signals when you’re in the zone. Here’s what you need to look out for when you’re out there: throbbing headache, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, you stop sweating, your muscles get weak or cramp up, nausea, rapid heartbeat, shallow breath, confusion, disorientation or staggering. Don’t try to tough out these symptoms. They can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness or coma.
If you start feeling these symptoms, stop exercising immediately and cool your body down. Drink cold water, get ice packs under your arms, on your head and on your skin, the key is to cool down your core temperature. If you experience multiple symptoms, call 911 and get medical attention.
Pick a Cooler Time of Day
Every trainer, sports coach and fitness instructor, including me, is going to tell you that the best time of day to work out is when it’s cooler and they are 100% right. It’s not just about hydration. Your body is at maximum efficiency for how it uses water, nutrients, and calories, how it burns fat stores and your muscles and heart rate recover faster. But, the cooler part of the day doesn’t work for everyone. Some aren’t early risers, some work late, some just like to blow off some steam during their lunch break. But it really is better for you to workout when it is cooler outside.
Go to the Gym Instead
I hate the gym. I do! I’m a terrible fitness coach for saying it, but I would way rather be outside, running in the fresh air, sunshine or even rain, than be cooped up in a smelly gym. I get it. But, if the middle of the day is really the best time for you, or the only time you have even when it’s blazing hot out, do yourself a favor and go to the gym instead. With a climate controlled track or stationary cycle room, you can get in your mid-day workout without trying to fight off heat exhaustion.
These days, I’d probably blow off a twenty-four hour, twenty-four mile race if I knew it was going to be 100 degrees. At the very least, I would jog it instead of going all out. Taking care of myself is way more important. I listen to my body. I don’t set my alarm to workout in the morning. If I don’t wake up early enough to do it, I’m too tired to train. Period.
Listen, you’re committed to your workout. I totally get it. When I was a triathlete, there was nothing that came between me and my workout. But heat and sun exposure can lead to injury, and then you won’t be able to exercise at all. I want you to reach you goals. I am certainly not going to discourage you from getting exercise, no matter what time of day it is. Just be smart about it.
I’ve just given you four really important tips to working out during the hot summer months. Got any tips for staying cool during your workout? Share them with me here.
Hayley Hobson is an author, speaker, business coach, yogi, Pilates instructor, and holistic nutritional expert based in Boulder, CO. Her unique and intelligent style promotes strengthening while softening—empowering her clients to heal not only their physical bodies but their hearts and minds as well. To learn more about her nutritional courses, events, and custom programs, visit hayleyhobson.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.