Summer is finally here! It’s time to get outside and play. While the sun has immense positive effects on our bodies (and spirits!), it’s important to protect one’s self from its possible side effects. This is especially true when exercising during a heat wave. Whether you’re going out for a run, a bike ride, a hike or any other sport, here’s some practical advice to ensure that your summer training sessions remain safe and enjoyable.
On a hot day, sports and physical activity should be done early in the morning or late in the day, when the sun is less intense.
Even though young children, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions are more at risk during a heat wave, we all need to be aware of heat stroke. If possible, opt for an activity like yoga, weight lifting or Pilates, which can all be done indoors with air conditioning. Swimming is also recommended in hot weather if you have access to a pool, lake or the ocean (lucky you!).
What to wear?
Choose an outfit that’s light, loose fitting and breathable. Go with fabrics that wick away perspiration and dry quickly, and avoid wearing dark colors that absorb the sun’s rays. Wear sunglasses and a wet hat too. This helps keep your body temperature down. Also, by applying sunscreen with a high SPF at least 20 minutes before going outside (and reapplying it every two hours), you’ll protect your skin from sunburns.
During Physical Activity
While playing sports, the human body loses water for 3 reasons:
- Muscles contract and produce heat
- The body sweats more, losing water and salt
- Hot air and direct sun increase body temperature
Dehydration can affect your health (headaches, nausea, blood pressure dropping, disorientation, etc.) and your performance (less power and endurance, shortness of breath, lack of concentration, etc.). Be sure to drink liquids before you feel thirsty, and take small sips regularly from the start of your activity. Avoid drinking ice cold water! It can cause slight digestive troubles.
Cool Off Regularly
Take breaks from the sun as often as possible by stepping into some shade, and splash your face and neck with water every once in a while too. For some backyard fun, feel free to use your garden hose or sprinkler. In the city, use a personal mister to stay cool.
Better Safe Than Sorry
In a heat wave, it’s best to reduce the intensity of your workout if temperatures and humidity are too high. Never wait until you feel weak or exhausted before taking a break. Heat stroke can come on quickly and the complications are serious. Some advice: at the first sign of a headache or dizziness, stop your activity, find shade immediately, drink and splash yourself with water.
Once your workout is done, let your body gradually return to a normal temperature before taking a cold shower. You’ll avoid an unnecessary thermal shock. If you can, take an hour to cool down in the shade or in fresh air before going back into the sun. A break from the heat, a snack (slightly salted) and a thirst-quenching drink will do you a lot of good!
When faced with extreme heat, it’s best to be reasonable. Prioritize going outside at cooler times of day, either morning or evening. Set aside the afternoon for some down time (or a nap!) and skip intense physical activity at high noon. After all, “siestas” are good for you too!