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We are officially in the throes of Summertime in much of the United States, which means the temperatures are heating up. Where I live, in Charleston, South Carolina, summer means temps ranging from 75° at night to 85-95° during the day. When you layer a nice thick helping of humidity on top, it can feel pretty unbearable at times. I affectionately refer to this time of year as “wet blanket season” to commemorate the feeling of being suffocated in a wet blanket upon walking outside.
When temperatures are high, it can be challenging to get out the door to go for a run, or some days to even walk to the car to go to the gym. So how can we protect ourselves and be smart about the heat when it comes to exercising? Below are a few great ways to make sure the dog days of summer won’t slow down your gains.
Listen to your body
Listening to your body is by far the most critical rule of exercise, heat, or no heat. There will be some days you’ll get outside and think, “Nope, not today.” That’s not only normal but shows excellent self-awareness and body consciousness. If your body says it’s too hot or you’re not feeling it, turn right on back around and head inside. The last thing anyone should do is overexert themselves on a hot day and risk heat exhaustion, or worse.
If you’re just starting an exercise routine, be sure to check with a doctor first as they are best to assess your limitations and clear you for fitness.
Go early or late
This one is pretty obvious, but avoid planning outdoor activities for the hottest part of the day, from 10 am to 4 pm. The best time for me to run in summer is before 7 am or after 7 pm. These times are when the heat of the day hasn’t started or is beginning to fade. Be sure to look for shady running routes or areas to work out if you absolutely can’t avoid getting outside when the sun is high.
Join a gym
Air-conditioned gyms can be a total sanctuary this time of year. As with any workout, getting there is half the battle. On hot days try starting your car a few minutes before you plan to leave and blast the AC so you won’t begin to sweat before you hit the weights. If you have a gym close by, see if you can do a week or month trial at a discounted rate (or maybe even $free.99).
Get creative indoors
Thanks to a little known recent global pandemic, which has forced us all to stay home, people have started using loads of creativity in finding workout equipment substitutes. I’ve seen people use bottles of wine for 3lb weights for Barre, chairs for step-ups, and even squat holding their favorite puppy dog or toddler for sweaty snuggles. Take the opportunity to use your new “equipment” and try a new indoor exercise routine from a video or make it up as you go.
My favorite way to sweat it out indoors? Yoga and a quick kettlebell workout. I have a 20lb* and 45lb* kettlebell that I use for various movements. The lighter weight is mostly for arm moves: bent-over rows, overhead press, tricep extensions, while the heavier works great for swings, goblet squats, or farmer’s carries.
Hydration is one of the more important elements of exercising in hot weather. And it needs to be a primary focus before you plan to head outdoors—try to drink a cup or two of water 2-3 hours before your workout. Then, be sure to hydrate during your workout if it’s longer than 15-20 minutes, and after. Water is always best but consider an electrolyte supplement* to restore the minerals you lost in your sweat.
Proper hydration enables your body to sweat properly. Sweating is our body’s way of cooling down, but it also helps with detoxification. Sweating has been shown in studies to release heavy metals, chemicals, and other harmful toxins through the cells of our skin. I know it’s not always the most pleasant experience to be dripping in sweat, but keep in mind that it means your body is healthy, and it’s all part of the process.
If you are a person who has sensitive skin, is prone to skin cancer, or just generally needs to wear sunscreen, don’t forget to put it on before you head outdoors. I am not a huge fan myself and typically only wear it if I plan to be out for an hour or more. But, as always, heed the advice of your doctor, dermatologist, or mama and do what works best for you!
It pains me to see women out running in the middle of June in long black leggings and a black t-shirt. Why do we do this to ourselves?! Be smart when it comes to your attire. Lighter colors tend to reflect the sun, and I generally opt for shorts over leggings and tank tops over tees. Are you feeling a bit light on workout gear? What an excellent opportunity to buy yourself a little something new. It can not only be cute but motivating too!
The dog days of summer shouldn’t slow you down from reaching your fitness goals. I hope you can use these tips to protect yourself and make sure you can keep up your training regimen through the hottest months. Do you have another way to keep cool when the heat is up? Tell me about it in the comments.