Although summer is winding down, it’s hotter than ever! So, how are you supposed to keep that beach body when it’s 100-plus degrees outside and all you want to do is sit inside and guzzle frozen margaritas?
Well, don’t fret (or drink too many margaritas — they are loaded with calories) . . . stick to these rules and you’ll keep your cool and may even shed some fat and pounds before Labor Day.
Rule #1 Adjust Your Schedule
When it comes to workouts, I always tell my clients to fit it in whenever they can. However, if all you have is 30 minutes at 2 p.m., taking a nice jog around Memorial Park in 100 degrees is going to do more harm than good. To avoid the dangers of heat, avoid the hottest times of the day — plain and simple.
So many people think that they will get acclimated to the heat or they can tough it out. Wrong. There is some truth to the fact that you will get acclimated, but your body is not going to get used to 100 degrees in scorching sun, no matter how often you suffer.
Just get yourself up an extra 30 to 60 minutes earlier every morning and get it done! You’ll feel much better and be able to perform before the sun comes up.
Rule #2 Stay Hydrated
By this I don’t mean beer, coffee or energy drinks. H2O people!
But, when you are sweating a lot, you may need extra electrolytes so you can supplement your water with Gatorade (I like the G2 low-cal version) or other sports drink. Just watch the sugars or you could be drinking as many calories as you are burning! Not sure if your sports drink has electrolytes? Just make sure it has some sodium and potassium and you’ll be good.
Rule #3: Take It Down a Notch
This is not the time to join a Navy Seal boot camp or show off to your friends at the track. When your body temperature rises, your heart has to work much harder to pump and supply blood to the rest of your body. Because of this, your heart is going to be pounding extra hard, your heart rate will be elevated and your normal workout will feel like the Olympic Trials.
To adjust for this, just take it down a notch. By this, I mean intensity (how hard you are working) and/or duration (time). Don’t worry, you won’t start gaining weight or lose your conditioning — your body is having to work just as hard, if not harder in the heat.
Rule #4 Try Cooler Activities
Good news for all you Bikram yoga fans — now you can do it outside! Well, maybe. The heat can actually be a good thing when it comes to yoga and flexibility. But, for most other activities it’s killer.
Now is the time to switch gears and try something new that will keep your body cool. Water activities will do just the trick. Try kayaking, water polo, wakeboarding or signup for swimming lessons. Not a fan of water?
Try indoor activities like a new class at your gym or a sport that can be played inside like soccer, tennis, racquetball or basketball. This is a great opportunity to challenge your body with something new and spice up your routine!
Rule #5: Wear the Right Clothes
Remember the trash-bag-looking sweat suits I talked to you about before? Only wear them or other extra layers if you plan to catch a ride home from EMS.
Keep in mind you should wear the “right clothes” and not lack of them. I see way too many people at the gym and outside wearing next to nothing. Yes, it’s hot — but that’s not an excuse for you to be an exhibitionist.
Your body needs to stay cool and dry, especially this time of year and you don’t want to wear anything that will make you hotter or cling to your skin. Stick to fabrics that say “moisture control”, “dry fit” or “breathable”. If you are wearing baggy cotton, it will weigh you down and also show every drop of sweat: That isn’t attractive.
However, keep in mind you should wear the “right clothes” and not lack of them. I see way too many people at the gym and outside wearing next to nothing. Yes, it’s hot — but that’s not an excuse for you to be an exhibitionist.
Rule #6: Protect Yourself From the Elements
I can’t talk about hot Houston workouts without mentioning our mascot — the mosquito! Nothing ruins a good workout more than a pesky flock of these suckers who’ve decided to attack your hamstrings. Be prepared. There are tons of new bug sprays (even organic ones) that work great and don’t smell like a ton of chemicals.
The ones that say “active” or “sweat proof” work the best. Let’s not forget the sun either. If you stick to early morning or evening workouts, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. However, it’s still a good idea to use a “sport” sunblock every time you head outside. Your skin is your largest organ — and you won’t look your best if you resemble a lobster.
Rule #7: Plan Your Recovery
What you do the few minutes after your workout will determine how fast you recover. When it’s hot outside it takes even longer for your body temp to cool and longer for your muscles to recover. Within the first 30 minutes after your workout you need to chill, eat protein and hydrate.
I’m not saying you have to jump in an ice bath (although it may sound crazy — it can help), but you need to drop your body temp fast. The faster you cool your body, the less swelling and soreness your muscles will have and you’ll feel more energized and less lethargic throughout the rest of the day.
Eating a little protein (along with a complex carb) will help your muscles repair themselves faster too. I don’t mean a whole steak or chicken, just a few almonds, light protein shake or some crackers with some cashew butter (yum!).
Don’t forget hydration. Even if you think you aren’t that thirsty, keep drinking fluids the rest of the day. If you’ve lost weight after your workout, odds are you are dehydrated and you need to replenish those fluids fast.
Rule #8: Trees Are Your Best Friend
When you are working out outside, consider your options for shade. The best source, especially in Houston (thank you Trees For Houston!) is trees. Find a park, street or other area packed with trees and you can cut your heat index by five to 10 degrees.
No trees? Try buildings, street overpasses, basketball courts or other covered canopies.
Rule #9: Check the Forecast
Before you head outside, do some research. Don’t just check the temperature, but also the humidity, because high temps combined with high humidity can actually feel 10 to 20 degrees hotter! This is called the heat index and if you live in Houston, you should be well aware of it by now.
Check the local news, Weather.com and other resources. If you see the red heat warnings that means it’s probably not a good idea to lace up your shoes and head outside.
Rule #10: Know the Signs of Trouble
Even if you follow all the above rules, you can still be at risk. The best way to prevent this is to know the classic signs of heat sickness, whether it's heatstroke, heat exhaustion or being overheated. If you start feeling nauseous, stop sweating, get the chills or feel light-headed (any one of these) . . . STOP and head inside stat!
The quicker you can get your body’s temp back to normal, the better. Drink water (chilled is best), head for the shade (or air conditioning if you can) and monitor your heart rate. If your symptoms don’t resolve on their own within a few minutes, call 911 or alert a friend or someone nearby that you need help.
Cari Shoemate is an ACE-certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and certified yoga instructor. You can get more of her fitness tips at Cari-fit.com.