If you exercise at a gym all winter, you’re probably ready to move your workout outside when warmer weather arrives. As you prepare to hit the road in the summer heat, though, there are some things you should keep in mind.
Exercise physiologist Michael Crawford shares five tips that will help you stay safe and get a good workout.
1. Be aware of the impact heat has on a routine workout
The same exercise routine in warm weather compared to cooler weather demands more energy — more quickly leading to fatigue and its effects.
“Even when your routine doesn’t change, warm or hot weather introduces an additional variable to your workout,” Mr. Crawford says.
“Increased external temperature sets up a competition for a limited blood supply between the active muscles used in the exercise and the skin working to cool the body.”
2. Give your body time to adjust to the heat
Don’t go all-out with an intensive exercise routine in warm weather right away.
“You can adapt to warmer temperatures by exercising in the heat for about an hour each day for five to 10 days,” Mr. Crawford advises. “This is called heat acclimatization. Cardiovascular changes will occur in the first three to five days, while changes in the body’s sweating mechanisms may take up to 10 days."
3. You’ll need to make changes when the weather heats up
Even after your body adjusts to the heat, you may want to reduce the intensity and duration of your workouts, Mr. Crawford suggests.
“Exercise that helps to cool the body, such as cycling or swimming, also is a good alternative for warm weather,” he says.
In general, follow these tips in hot weather:
- Exercise in the cooler parts of the day (morning or evening)
- Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluid (at least about every 15 minutes during exercise)
- Wear less clothing
- Be sure clothing is breathable and light-colored
4. Be aware of increased risks in warmer weather
“Higher temperatures can cause increased sweating, potentially leading to dehydration and reduced exercise performance,” warns Mr. Crawford. “Severe dehydration can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.”
Even if you’ve gotten your body ready for the heat, sometimes it’s better to skip the workout in certain conditions. Bear in mind that it is not only about the temperature, but also about humidity and wind, and whether it’s sunny or cloudy.
“A good rule of thumb is to hold off on exercise if the temperature is 80 degrees (or higher) and the humidity is at 80 percent,” says Mr. Crawford.
5. Watch for these signs that you need to stop exercising
- Heat cramps – Cramps are the first sign you’re overdoing it and need a break. If you feel spasms in your muscles during your workout, gently stretch and massage the affected muscle and replenish your fluids. Don’t try to start exercising for a few hours after heat cramps go away.
- Heat exhaustion – This causes extreme fatigue, breathlessness, dizziness, vomiting or fainting. Skin is sometimes cold and clammy or hot and dry. You may have low blood pressure and a weak but rapid pulse. “If you suddenly feel chilled and get goose bumps despite the heat, stop exercising, get into a cool environment and drink plenty of cool fluids,” Mr. Crawford advises.
- Heatstroke – This is a life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical attention. Symptoms include a temperature greater than 104 degrees and feeling disoriented or confused. You’ll likely notice a rapid pulse and breathing, and flushed skin from the exertion.
It feels great to exercise outside after gutting out months of indoor workouts at the gym. But it’s important to make mental adjustments that will help your body adjust safely to warm-weather workouts.