Summer is fast approaching. Temperatures are rising, and more and more people are venturing outdoors to enjoy a hike, run, or workout. If you like being in the outdoors, kudos to you. Your body is pining for the Vitamin D offered up by the Sun and nothing beats fresh air. If cooler temperatures are more your forte, you can get a great workout indoors on a bike, elliptical, or treadmill with plenty of fans blowing in your face. Wherever you decide to workout, always take the necessary steps to avoid overheating while you exercise.
Exercising indoors at the gym presents immensely fewer risks of overheating than exercising outdoors. Even in the dead of Summer, the indoor temperature with adequate air conditioning is going to vary from 68-74 degrees, and the fans with keep the air circulating. When you start running or working out your cardiovascular system in any way, your core body temperature can rise by 20 degrees to the surrounding temperature. When you combine that factor with 95 degree heat, you’ve got a serious chance of overheating. Luckily, our sweat glands are designed to secrete water onto the skin for evaporation after the blood has been brought to just under the skin surface to be cooled. If you workout in a favorable environment and avoid excessive temperatures, your body temperature shouldn’t rise by more than 2 to 3 degrees.
Here are a few steps to take to avoid overheating while you exercise:
Avoid exercising in dangerous temperatures with high heat indexes. If you can cook an egg on the hood of your car outside, maybe you can find a place indoors to take your workout. If you are in relatively good shape and insist on exercising outdoors despite the heat index, shorten your workout time. Your heart rate will rise faster, as it will be harder to cool your body. Your workload can be significantly shorter and should stay within your target heart rate zones.
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. You have to be adequately hydrated before you start working out. Don’t forget to continue to drink during your exercise. Replace your fluids as you lose them.
Dress light. Excessing clothing or wearing long sleeves so you can “sweat a lot” is not smart. Wear lightweight and well-ventilated attire.
Check your weight. You need daily body weight numbers to track how much water you are losing after workouts. Exercising in high heat will make you lose body water more quickly than working out in normal temperatures. Whether exercising indoors or outdoors, if you weigh before a run, record a number, and weigh again after a run and the number is 5 pounds less, guess what: you did lose 5 pounds, but it is 99% water. You must replace this lost fluid and be rehydrated before your next workout.
Listen to your body. There is a time to push yourself and a time to stop. The body has a built in “stop point” where you have reached a maximum temperature (around 104 degrees). You will know when you are close or at the point. If you ever feel faint or dizzy, stop your workout and immediately find a way to cool your body.
Extra credit hint: If you feel like you are overheating, run cold water over your wrists for a few minutes. This will cool the blood traveling back to the heart and it’s a fast way to lower your core temperature.