If you’ve ever had to work out and stick to a fitness routine in the summer, then you’ll know just how stressful it can really get. Trust me, I'm an expert at this having lived in Arizona my entire life! Your body is going to burn out faster and it will get incredibly uncomfortable after just a few short minutes. The harder you work, the easier it is to get dehydrated and start feeling dizzy.
Your body has many built-in mechanisms that will alert you when your body is starting to shut down as a result of working out in the heat, but many people ignore these warnings and might end up injuring themselves or ending up in hospital. I see this every summer. So many people go for a hike and end up being rescued or worse yet, dead, because they are unaware of their bodies signals. However, this is often due to a lack of understanding.
In this article, we’re going to debunk a couple of myths that will help you work out in the heat without putting your health at risk.
1. Drink More Water
Yes, drinking water helps to cool you down, but did you know that there’s a limit to how much you should hydrate yourself? Studies have shown that drinking to thirst (only drinking when you feel thirsty) is actually the optimal strategy. Drinking too much or too little will impact your performance, and overhydrating can actually cause you to slow down and is very easy to achieve when you’re not watching how much you drink.
Another important aspect of exercising in the heat is excessive sweating. While drinking more water may feel the right solution, the more you sweat, the more minerals and electrolytes you lose. If your re-hydrating strategy doesn't include replenishing these important micronutrients, you may not get the most out of your liquids. Long story short, when heat hits the fan, think sports drinks but aim for a balanced electrolyte profile, sugar is not enough.
2. Pour Cold Water On Your Head
This isn’t so much as busting a myth, but more overtaking it with a better solution. Yes, pouring cold water can help your body regulate your internal temperature better, but it’s actually not the best solution if you want to stay cool. In fact, studies have shown that taking a long hot bath before a period of intense exercise can help you perform better on the day. The idea is to prepare for the heat so that your body can grow accustomed to the temperatures and thus perform better.
3. The Type of Heat Has No Effect on Performance
To most people, hot is hot and they want to avoid it. That would be me. To the more informed, there are different types of heat and they can affect your performance in different ways.
For instance, humid heat is completely different to dry heat. If there is too much moisture in the air, then your body will find it difficult to evaporate moisture. It’s important to differentiate between the different types of heat and prepare yourself accordingly, or simply avoid humid and hot days when working out or find air-conditioned gym in your area.
4. Exercising in Water Keeps You Cool
Water does nothing to keep you cool if it’s the same temperature (or even hotter) than your body. This means that swimming can be a fantastic way to keep cool while exercising as long as the water temperature is kept low enough.
If you’re exposed in an outdoor pool, then it’s not much different to exercising in the heat. Ensure you are prepared and monitor how you feel. It's easy to not notice your body needs a break when you are having fun.
5. Dressing Down Keeps You Cool
Wearing little to no clothing actually makes your body hotter when exercising outdoors in the summer. This is because the sun is absorbed directly into your skin instead of having to go through a layer of your workout gear first. The best solution is to wear dry fit clothing that takes the heat away from your body. If the sun is really getting on your nerves, then even a hat to keep your face cool is a better solution than going shirtless.
I am a wife, mom, grandma & former professional “diet and exercise hopper" who understands the challenges of being 40lb overweight after having children & the damage repeated sense of failure can cause to your confidence and self-esteem.