Usually this time of year we put up some reminders of what to tweak in your fitness routine, to make it compatible, productive, and safe for our hot, humid, southern summers. This year is no exception, because these are important things to bear in mind. We applaud your effort to carry on with fitness, even during the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer,” and we want you to get the good that you’re looking for, while still being smart about the effects that heat and humidity can add to the effort your body is making.
This year we thought we’d start the story from the other side. Not what to do, but rather what to avoid. First, let’s understand what our summer weather adds to the work your body is doing during your workout.
Exercise naturally raises your body’s core temperature. The summer heat adds to that temperature from the outside-in and gives the body less contrast for dissipating its heat to the atmosphere. Add our famous Lowcountry humidity, and then the body’s natural cooling mechanism – perspiration – is made less effective, because perspiration does not evaporate readily into air that is already loaded with moisture. Two strikes: higher temp and less chance to cool naturally.
How we handle the next pitch will determine whether our workouts stay safe through the summer.
What to Avoid
First and foremost, don’t get thirsty. By the time your body signals thirst, it’s too late; you’re already in deficit. Extensive experience in desert and jungle environments has taught that it is vital to hydrate proactively. An experienced Marathon runner we know says he wants to “slosh” when he begins a summer run. Any fullness in the tummy departs almost immediately, and it’s his signal that he’s hydrated. But don’t wait until workout time to “add water.” A study we saw recently suggests it can take about 45 minutes for the water you take on to reach the active muscles.
Don’t skip the sunscreen. Thankfully, there are excellent “sport” formulations of SPF 30 and SPF 50 sunscreens that resist rinsing off from perspiration. One of our favorites comes in a stick for easy pre-workout application.
Avoid the middle of the day. Timing is everything, or as someone thoughtful said recently, everything is timing. True in summer workouts, as in all of sports. Avoid the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when you exercise in summer. This puts reinforcements on your side against the heat, humidity, and sun exposure.
Adjust Your Goals
Don’t aim for the same standards in your summer workouts, especially outdoors. Trying to duplicate your personal best during a summer workout is unrealistic. Heat and humidity can be expected to impact performance, so don’t measure your July workout against October standards.
And finally – don’t ignore your body’s feedback. When your body says “no,” summer is not the time to push on. Persistence is part of the deal when it comes to fitness, so it’s important to know the difference between copping out and being smart. Heat stress begins when the body can’t evaporate enough sweat to cool itself. The first signal is deteriorating performance, then muscle cramps, headaches or dizziness follow. Do not ignore them. By the time you stop sweating, you’re experiencing heat stroke and immediate medical attention is needed to bring you back. Just don’t go there.
Hope this change-up in our usual summer exercise tips wasn’t a downer. We wanted to recognize the importance of exercising consciously, especially in the summer, for everyone’s well-being. We’re on your side, yours and the whole family’s. Check in with us anytime to discuss a new routine if you’re setting out on the fitness journey, or to gain some fine-tuning if you’re an old hand. And remember that back-to-school physical next month for the children, especially if they participate in sports at school.
Just call us at 843-815-6468.