Imagine you’re on the surface of the sun (obviously, in a heat-proof suit). It’s summer. And you’re having a hot flash. Then it starts raining.
That, my friends, is Connecticut in the summer.
I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
High heat on top of ridiculous humidity makes leaving the house a death-defying act in New England during July and August. I know because I’ve been there and (barely) survived.
I now live in Southern California and have put those days behind me, like a bad experience I’d rather forget. (I loved Connecticut, don’t get me wrong. Just not the summers. Or winters.)
Anyone exercising outdoors under these conditions should be put away in a room where they can’t hurt themselves any more.
Back in the day… (cue rotating hourglass) I belonged to a biking club in Connecticut. We’d go on 25+ mile rides. On some days it was like trying to breathe underwater.
Then there were the thunderstorms that came seemingly out of nowhere and threatened to electrocute and melt me directly on to my bike seat.
Oh, the joys.
I used to live for those handful of glorious days when the temperature was below the boiling point of water and it wasn’t yet snowing.
But here’s the thing: If you exercised only when the temperature, humidity and sunshine all cooperated together in a trifecta of perfection you’d be limited to about one day every five years.
That won’t work.
So instead, you make do. Or make don’t.
Here are a handful of tips to help you cope when you just gotta get out to work out…
First, keep in mind that exercising in the heat can increase your body temperature as much as 5-degrees above normal within only 15 minutes, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Start by avoiding the hottest part of the day, which is usually from late morning into the afternoon. In general, when the heat index (a function of temperature and relative humidity) hits 90 it’s a good idea to keep your workout indoors. Humidity prevents sweat from evaporating and cooling you off. For example, an air temperature of 90 degrees with a relative humidity of 90% feels like 122 degrees.
Yikes. This delightful combo increases the risk of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke2.
When the mercury is off the charts, modify your efforts. This means decreasing the duration and/or intensity, depending on your fitness level and the workout itself. If you usually do an hour power walk, for example, reduce it to 30 or so minutes and walk at a slower pace.
And, of course, pay attention to signs that indicate it’s time to stop, such as if you stop sweating, feel faint, nauseous or dizzy.
It seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes we forget the obvious. Dress in lightweight, breathable fabrics that bring sweat away from your skin. In addition, consider wearing a lightweight hat to keep the sun off your face and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Some manufacturers such as Patagonia offer clothing treated with sun protection and odor-controlling agents to protect you from UV rays and keep you smelling fresh.
Preventing dehydration on sweaty days involves proper hydrations before, during and after your workout. Strive to drink two cups (1 pint) of water 2 to 3 hours prior to exercise, 7 to 10 ounces every 15 or so minutes during exercise and 16 to 24 ounces after exercise for every pound of body weight lost during the workout.
Plus, if you’re a heavy sweater and lose a lot of salt, or are working out longer than an hour, a sport drink will help more by replacing lost electrolytes and minerals.
If you typically exercise indoors, allow your body time to acclimate to working out outdoors in hot and humid weather. On average, it takes approximately 10 to 14 days for most healthy people to adjust to exercising in a hot and humid environment. Go easy!
Lastly, use common sense and find indoor activities on the worst days.
Now you… Do you enjoy exercising outdoors in the summer? What do YOU do to stay safe? Let me know in the comments section below!
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Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.