As temperatures rise, so do the dangers of overexerting yourself in the hot weather. And that can lead to a wide range of problems, from irritating cramps to life-threatening heatstroke, according to the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit American medical centre focused on integrated healthcare, education and research.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to give up your entire fitness routine until fall. You just have to be smart about it, said Paul Kriegler, a registered dietitian and director of nutritional product development at Life Time.
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It’s always a good idea to listen to your body when you exercise, but in hot weather, it’s more essential than ever, he said.
“It’s important not to push yourself too far,” he said. Just because you could handle the workout on a cool day doesn’t mean you can do so on a hot day. So make adjustments.
“There are several levers you can manipulate to adjust to the heat,” he said. “One is duration – the amount of time you work out. The second is intensity – how hard you push yourself. And then there’s preparation and recovery – maintaining hydration, how well you sleep the night before and warming up right.”
Don’t push yourself too much in the hot weather. Photo: Shutterstock
Everyone reacts to heat stress differently.
“It all depends on the person and their acclimation to the heat,” he said.
Yes, our bodies will adjust to the higher temperatures – eventually – but that can take several weeks. A day or two of working out in the heat isn’t going to do it.
One of the best indications of how hard you’re working is your heart rate. As the temperature rises, your heart pumps faster to get more blood to the skin to facilitate cooling.
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“But you don’t need a [heart monitoring] device,” he said. “Check your breathing. Is it heavier than usual? Can you still converse? Ask yourself how you feel. On a scale of one to 10 – one being that you can maintain this level all day long and 10 being that you should stop immediately – how do you rate yourself?”
Flexibility also is crucial. Kriegler isn’t talking about the kind of flexibility that enables you to bend over and touch your toes – although that’s also good – he’s referring to getting out of routines that can be potentially harmful.
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Many fitness buffs like to stick to a rigid schedule of when they exercise and which types of exercise they do. This is not a good time of year to be stubborn. Maybe you like to go for a vigorous run during your lunch break; instead, change to early morning when the temperatures are lower and the sun is less direct. Or move to a treadmill inside.
Perhaps your routine calls for a long bike ride every Wednesday and Saturday. Instead, “tell yourself that you’re going to get in two quality workouts a week,” he said. “But maybe it won’t be today. Maybe you can do an easier mobility workout today and wait until tomorrow to do something more intense.”
Finally, keep well-hydrated – before, during and after you exercise.
Hydration is key, whether you are exercising or not. Photo: Shutterstock
“Hydration is critical,” Kriegler said. “The baseline amount to consume is one-half ounce of non-caffeinated fluid for every pound of body weight a day, plus 16 to 24 ounces for every hour of exercise.”
If that sounds like too much measuring, go back to one of Kriegler’s first pieces of advice: Listen to your body.
“Our bodies are very good at telling us what we need,” he said. “If you’re thirsty all the time, you’re dehydrated.”