We Canadians love to talk about the weather.
And what a weather week it’s been! Record temperatures up and down the west coast. Unseasonable heat and humidity. No leisurely stroll from spring to summer this year! No sir-ree. Straight into the dog days of summer and the extra challenges heat brings to our workouts.
When exercising in an environment that’s warmer than the body is accustomed to, tiny blood vessels near the surface of the skin open to make it make it easier for heat to leave the body and maintain homeostasis. Consequently, both stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped by the heart with each beat) and venous return (the amount of de-oxygenated blood returning from the body to the lungs via the heart) decline. In order to satisfy the muscles’ need for oxygen, heart rate will increase above what it would if you were performing the very same exercise at a lower temperature.
The bottom line? Your workout will feel more difficult than usual and you’ll most likely tired more rapidly.
Oh, and did I mention that if you’re prone to peri-menopausal hot flashes, elevated body temperature often acts as a trigger? Nice, ‘eh? (Click on over to my resource page for ‘hot chicks’ to see how exercise, sleep and nutrition can help with your ‘favourite’ menopausal symptoms…)
Want to get the most out of exercising in the heat? Give the following ‘keep cool during summer workouts’ tips a try:
- choose cooler times of the day to exercise; even if you exercise in an air-conditioned gym, as the temperature outside increases, the temperature and humidity inside will as well. Switch your workout times to earlier in the morning or later in the evening to take advantage of the coolest times of the day. Even more important if you exercise out-of-doors.
- replenish fluids regularly during your workout; aim to drink 7 to 10 ounces of water ever 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. Cooler water is best as it empties more quickly from the stomach to where it’s absorbed in the intestines.
- maximize the evaporation of sweat; sweating is one of the ways in which your body regulates its internal temperature. For sweat to lower body temperature, it must evaporate. Minimize clothing when exercising in hot weather to maximize the evaporation of sweat. Choose lightweight, wicking fabrics over cotton and rubberized materials. Light colours reflect heat better than dark colours. And wearing a light-coloured hat can help you from absorbing heat through the top of the head.
- temporarily reduce your workout intensity; if your regular workout feels too difficult to perform when the temperature soars, reduce the intensity. That might mean slowing your cardio pace, performing few sets of strength training exercises with longer rests between sets or even reducing your weekly workouts by one. Remember that your heart is working harder than it would be if you were doing the very same workout on a cooler day.
- swap ‘hot’ workouts for ‘cool’ workouts; if you have access to a swimming pool or ice arena, try changing your activity for the duration of the heat wave. Being immersed in water moderates your body’s internal temperature. And there’s nothing like the initial shock of entering a skating arena on a hot day to energize and invigorate. In addition to cooling you off, spending time in the pool or on the ice is a great way to introduce more variety to your exercise routine.
If all else fails, set up your sprinkler in the front yard and practice squatting, jumping and sprinting through the spray. Just make sure to tell the kids it’s your workout time and they’ll need to wait their turn 😉