I like to take advantage of summer’s clear sidewalks and trail access by running outdoors as much as possible. Lately, however, it hasn’t been as simple as just throwing on a pair of shorts and heading out into nature.
This summer in Ontario has been especially warm — lots of heat waves and humidity, with very few rainy days to bring temperatures down. I’m certainly not complaining! But all of this hot weather means we must do more than stockpile sunscreen to stay safe.
Running, playing sports, or doing exercise of any kind safely during extreme heat and humidity requires planning and preparation. While participating in any physical activity at this time of year, check in with yourself frequently and be aware of warning signs for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration.
Read on for 8 “must-do’s” to help ensure you stay safe and healthy during your summer workouts.
- Exercise early in the morning or late in the evening. It will be coolest at these times of the day. I generally go for runs before 8:30 a.m. or after 6:30 p.m., and sometimes even then it feels too hot! The sun, humidity, and air pollution are at their strongest at midday (between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.), so be sure to avoid outdoor activity during those times if at all possible.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing in light colours with breathable materials. Technical tees and shorts made of fabrics such as nylon or polyester are designed to wick away sweat and keep you feeling dry and cool longer. Avoid cotton at all costs!
- Hydrate! Drinking water during the summer is important for anyone, but it’s critical for people who are active. Be sure to sip water throughout the day so you are well hydrated before you begin exercising. Always bring fluids with you on your workout and aim to consume approx. 500 ml for every hour of exercise (more if it’s especially hot outside, e.g. 25 Celsius and above).
- Use electrolytes. If you are exercising for longer than 30 minutes at a time, consider taking an electrolyte supplement to help replenish the minerals (calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus) lost in sweat. These minerals play important roles in regulating heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure, all of which are vitally important during exercise. There are plenty of ways to quickly replace electrolytes – my favourite is with Vega’s Electrolyte Hydrator (in powder form, to dissolve in water). Coconut water is also a terrific natural option.
- Wear a hat (and natural sunscreen). These are self-explanatory; the purpose is to reduce sun exposure, keeping your head, eyes and face protected from solar radiation and staying a tiny bit cooler. Another added bonus: drizzle some extra water over your head while wearing a hat – it will retain moisture to keep your head cool and can be very refreshing!
- Take it easy. Slow down, pace yourself, and don’t set out to break any records! When it’s very hot outside, your goal should be to simply complete your workout while feeling good. Check in with yourself regularly, adjust your effort accordingly, and try not to focus on time/pace/competition.
- Stick to the shade. You’ll stay cooler during your workout if you avoid direct sunlight. Tree-lined trails are my favourite!
- Go for a swim. Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular activity for the summertime. It’s low-impact, and it’s hard to overheat when your body is immersed in cool water! Head to a local pool or lake for a refreshing, fun workout.
Follow these tips, and you’re sure to make it through even the sweatiest workouts with a smile on your face!