Exercising in hot weather increases our body temperature. Sure, our bodies have built-in cooling systems that help us adjust to heat, that’s why we perspire. But this natural cooling system can fail if we’re exposed to soaring temperatures for too long. The result may be heat exhaustion – that awful fatigue that makes you feel as if one more step could be your last – and even heat stroke. If the humidity is also way up, you’re in double trouble because your sweat “sticks” to your skin; it doesn’t evaporate as readily, which can send body temperature even higher!
1. Drink plenty of water
Start by drinking 2 glasses (500ml) of water 2 hours before exercise. During exercise lasting 60 minutes or longer, 2-3 glasses of water (500-70ml) of cool water or sports drink is sufficient. A good way to know that you’re hydrating properly is by checking the colour of your urine. If it’s pale yellow (think lemonade), you’re well hydrated. If it’s darker (heading toward the colour of apple juice), drink more.
NB Do be aware that some medications and supplements alter the colour of urine, so this gauge, while good for many, does not work for everyone!
2. Change it up
If you normally run, jog or walk. If you’re a brisk walker, slow it down. As your body adapts to the heat, gradually increase the pace and length of your workout. Otherwise swap outdoor activities for indoor workouts. Check out an air conditioned local gym to beat the heat rather than baking in the daytime sun. Also consider reducing the sweat factor of your workout by swapping a heavy cardio session for some resistance training.
3. Avoid the hottest part of the day
Rise early to catch the cool of the morning, or go out at sunset or later. At this time of year, that usually means avoid training outdoors between 8am and 8pm.
4. Wear light coloured, lightweight clothing
Dark colours absorb the heat, which can make you feel as if you’re wrapped in a warm blanket. Heavyweight, tight-fitting clothing will also heat you up. Keep it loose and light. More air will be able to circulate over your skin, keeping you cool!
5. Be sunsmart
Make sure you apply and reapply sunscreen especially if you are training or playing for extended periods. Also don’t forget a hat, while sun visors or caps may look fashionable, they offer much less sun protection compared well-vented wide brim hats.
6. Eat snacks to maintain energy
Try juicy snacks like fruit. The last thing you need in scorching heat are dry snacks like crackers, popcorn or energy bars that require your body to add water to digest.
7. Know your limits
Ok it kills you not to be able to finish your 10km run. May we be so blunt as to suggest that it may kill you if you try. Paid heed to the heat and listen to your body. If you’re feeling any of the following, find air-conditioned comfort fast:
- Paling of the skin
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat