Summer is all too quickly coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean the hot, humid days are behind us just yet. We’ve still got a little time before the autumn weather starts to set in. With that in mind, it’s important to plan your workouts accordingly. It’s easy to overdo it in the heat and humidity, and that can be dangerous. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for exercising safely when it’s humid outside.
Avoid midday workouts
There are a lot of us who like to take advantage of our lunch breaks and get in a workout. And for most of the year, this is a great idea that can save us time, since we’d otherwise have to squeeze our workouts in before or after work. But during the humid summer months, this may not be a good idea. The afternoon is when temperatures reach their peak, so exercising either in the morning or evening may be a better option. Or if you prefer, continue with your lunchtime workout but do it indoors.
Be aware of the heat index
The is the number that lets you know how hot it actually feels outside by taking into account both the temperature and the humidity. Of course, the higher the humidity, the hotter it will feel. So as we’ve all experienced, 85 degrees in a dry climate will not feel the same as 85 degrees in a more humid area. If you’re traveling from a drier location, it’s important not to underestimate this. Remember that even if the temperature doesn’t seem too high, it may actually feel significantly hotter than you’re used to.
Stay hydrated all day
We all know the importance of drinking water before, during and after a workout. And it’s easy to forget to drink water until right before you’re about to start exercising. But staying hydrated throughout the day will help you to avoid symptoms of dehydration during your workout. These can include headaches, stomach cramps, dizziness and more. It may be difficult at first to get into the routine of drinking water throughout the day, as many of us are not used to it. But if you make the effort for a week or so to keep a bottle of water at your desk, you’re likely to get into the habit of it, and it will become something you no longer have to remind yourself to do each day.
If you’re exercising outdoors in hot, humid weather, wear clothing made of fabric that will wick the moisture and sweat away from your skin. Athletic clothing lines like Under Armour, Nike and others have a variety of options to choose from. This will be much more comfortable than, say, a shirt that’s 100 percent cotton. It’s important to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and preferably lighter colors. Also, wear a hat to keep the sun off your head and face. And as always, be sure to wear sunscreen. On very sunny days, wearing sunglasses can sometimes have a positive psychological effect — if the sun doesn’t seem as bright, you may not be as focused on the heat. And of course, it will protect your eyes.
Lower the intensity
As you know, when it’s hot and humid, it’s easier to become overheated and dehydrated. That means that you may not want to workout as hard as you usually do. If you’re going for a jog, for example, go at an easy pace. It’s true that this can be frustrating — many of us are very goal-oriented when it comes to our workouts and we’re constantly striving to improve our performance. But during the summer heat, safety should come first. There’s no shame in taking it easy on those hot days — in fact, it’s the smart thing to do.
For those of us who live in cities, this can be a challenge. But temperatures on pavement and blacktop can be significantly higher. If possible, try to workout on a dirt trail or one that’s shaded. If you’re not near a trail, try to find streets that are tree-lined. It may take a few extra minutes of planning, but it will be worth it.
Have a backup plan
So you just got off work and you’re about to head out for a jog, but the humidity and temperatures have skyrocketed during the day — what do you do? If running is the only workout you’re prepared for, you might go ahead and go for your jog anyway, which may not be the safest option. But if you have a backup plan — maybe there’s a nearby gym that you enjoy going to, or maybe you’ve bookmarked a couple of workout videos on your computer at home — you’re less likely to push yourself to exercise outside when it may be too hot and humid to do so safely.
The summer heat is no joke. It can be tempting just to power through your workout as usual, but when it’s hot and humid, it’s important to take precautions. Relatively minor alterations to your workout routine can make a major difference and can help to keep you safe during the summer months.
— Sarah Cooke