Ah the Summer Olympics: the triumph, the drama, the glory…the heat. With average August temperatures in Rio de Janeiro hovering in the high 70’s, athletes from around the world will come together this week and begin competing not only against one other, but also against Mother Nature. These fiercely fit phenoms know how to keep themselves at peak performance regardless of weather conditions; meanwhile I’m over here wondering how anyone manages to wear light grey in August and if I should start bringing a second towel to yoga class.
Sadly, most of us mere mortals are only Olympians in our mid-workout daydreams. Still, we need to take extra care of our bodies when exercising in these hot and humid summer months. Notwithstanding the fact that overheating is dangerous, working out in the dead heat of summer can be downright discouraging. It’s hard enough to find the inspiration some days to get yourself moving, and now you have to do it with sweat pouring down your face before you even get started. To help you out, we’ve put together some workout tips to keep you safe, motivated, and maybe even feeling a little more Gold this summer.
Drink (and Eat) to Maintain Hydration
More heat, more sweat, more dehydration. Dehydration can put you at risk for heat stroke, or just make you feel drained and lose the enthusiasm to workout. But believe it or not, chugging too much water and becoming over-hydrated is just as (if not more) dangerous.[i] To prevent this, use your thirst as a guide to know when you need to rev up your fluid intake. It also helps to consume fluids before, during, and after you workout.[ii] Alcohol doesn’t count, so you may need to rethink that post-gym glass of wine (or at least pair it with plenty of water!)
What does count towards rehydrating your body is water, tea, coffee, juices, soups, and even fruits and vegetables. Water is the most obvious choice for a reason: it’s the best one. But these other sources will all help contribute to hydration. Fresh fruit and veggies will also help you get the nutrients you need – especially potassium – to stay healthfully fueled. One option you may want to pass up? Sugary sports drinks: the excessive calories and refined sugar essentially cancel out whatever gains you made in your workout. You’re better off eating mineral-rich foods to replenish the electrolytes you sweated out. Your waistline will thank you for it, and real food tastes better than those neon liquids anyway.
Mix it Up and Keep It Cool
Unlike Olympians, we pedestrians – thankfully – have options when it comes to how we get our exercise. Changing up your routine can be an easy and effective way to pull yourself out of a heat-induced workout slump. It can also keep you safe on days that are really scorching hot. Not looking forward to your usual 5-mile outdoor run when then heat index hovers near triple digits? Then don’t do it. Instead, opt for cooler activities like taking an indoor fitness class, working out in the air-conditioned gym, going swimming, or trying a new water sport. You’ll beat the heat and may just find a new fitness favorite by trying something different. If you really have your heart set on an outdoor activity, try to avoid the peak heat of midday, keep to the shade when possible, and follow the other tips in this article to stay safe.
When you do decide to sweat it out outside, don’t forget about sun protection. Sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen will help prevent sunburn – which affects your body’s ability to cool itself. And remember to reapply sunscreen as you sweat and wipe it off. I’m also going to give you an excuse to go shopping: proper active wear can help keep you cool, too. Look for clothing made of lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric and choose lighter colors over dark. (I know, I know: we all love our black spandex, but it’s basically a magnet for the sun.)
Know When to Take a Break
Pushing yourself is an important part of achieving fitness goals, but it’s equally important to know when you need to back off. Listening to your body and having a good understanding of your limits is invaluable and can help prevent heat-related illness. Signs you may have pushed your fitness boundaries too far include: muscle cramps, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and fatigue.[iii] Recognizing these signs and taking action to lower your body temperature will help prevent them from progressing into heat stroke – a dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention.
How do you battle the sweat deluge during summer workout sessions? And how many towels do you have to bring to yoga? Share your sweaty secrets in the comment below!