Training in hot weather
Summer is here and we feel more energised and motivated to work out, but as soon as we set foot outside we feel the heat, like a slap on the face.
Unless you’re from a warmer country living in London, the heat is probably getting to you, and you’re probably wondering how you can train in this weather... if you find the willpower to get away from the fan, that is!
Even if you love the heat and can’t wait to get outside and top up your tan, it’s good to know how to tackle the hot weather especially if you’re planning on working out outdoors.
Here are some tips to help you out.
Avoid the hottest times of the day
If you want to train and make sure that you're not feeling sick or getting heatstroke, definitely avoid the times when the temperatures are hotter, usually around midday, but depending on where you live, this can be from fairly early in the day to late afternoon.
There's never been a better excuse to be an early bird or a night owl. Use the long days to your advantage and go out for an early morning run, before the city is even awake. You will feel energised for the rest of the day and possibly make healthier choices all the way till night... After all, if you went to all the effort to get up that early to work out, surely you won't want to refill your body with lots of empty calories, will you?
If instead you're more of an evening person and can't even imagine waking up before the sun is already high, then a chilled evening workout might be your thing. Use the exercise to unwind from the day and feel refreshed and ready to hit the bed at night. You don't want to work out too late though, since you might be more alert and energetic right after your workout!
Let's be honest here, I probably was a lizard in another life. Sometimes I feel I'm always cold and the only way to raise my body temperature is to sit in the sun for a good couple of hours, roasting, which is terrible for your skin (unless you wear sunscreen), and probably bad for many other reasons. The truth is, I'm always cold.
In summer, unless it's very, very hot I won't be seen walking in the shade, especially here in London, where there's always a breeze that manages to leave me teeth-clattering whenever a cloud covers the sun for a few seconds. However, if you're exercising outdoors, the shade is definitely an ally. Use a shaded area near trees, or under some roof.
Even if you're not in plain sunshine, you can still feel very warm, so still need to be careful and keep reading.
SPF a.k.a. Super Powerful Friend
Even if you think you don't burn, you still need a sunscreen. It's not just whether your skin colour will turn a bright-lobster red why you should wear sunscreen, but more to do with UVA and UVB rays. The sun emits radiation that reaches our atmosphere and affects our skin in many different ways, one of them is by increasing the risk of skin cancer. Don't get me wrong, I love a tan, but there's no topping up or creating a base colour before you go out in the sun or to the beach. If you stay out too long, you will get sunburn.
When doing sports outdoors, you don't want to forget about it and keep reapplying. But I'm not swimming!, I hear you say. Isn't SPF10 meant to protect me for 150 minutes while out in the sun?. Well, it all depends on your skin, to start with... If you're sweating, chances are you'll need to reapply as well. And to be honest, do you really want to risk it? Tanning is fun, having red tan lines from your sports bra, or shape-changing moles isn't. Don't be silly, wear sunscreen and keep reapplying!
Drink plenty of water
Duh, right? Well, you might be one of those rare unicorns that drink lots of water everyday, but working at my gym and checking people's health on a daily basis has taught me that people don't drink enough... water.
Did you know that the minimum amount of water recommended for UK's temperate weather is six to eight 200ml cups? That's just about 1.5 litres. And that's just on a regular day. Add to that a temperature of 29 degrees Celsius, and then add some activity of any kind (even walking or talking!) and that's it, you're dehydrated. Do you drink coffee or tea? Well, you should know that caffeine (and equivalents) dehydrates you, so you should drink even more water!
Whether it's two or three litres, or whatever, depends on each individual and what's not enough for someone might be too much for another. Some symptoms of dehydration are thirst, dizziness, and tiredness, among others. From a health perspective, your body isn't functioning the way it should. You're losing water and the way I see it is you're like sandpaper inside. Nothing glides and works smoothly. Your sleep can suffer if you don't drink enough, and you can get headaches, your skin is dry, and you might feel generally unwell. In extreme cases, you can also die. From an exercise point of view, being dehydrated will severely impact your performance. As I usually tell my clients, you wouldn't drive a car with no oil (or water in the radiator), or ride a bike with no oil in the chain, so why would you go about with no water?
Whether you forget or maybe don't like the taste of water, I think it's time to set up reminders on your phone or smartwatch, and maybe think of ways of getting used to water (adding slices of lemon or cucumber to it?). If you don't drink enough water and exercise in hot weather, you're essentially playing Russian roulette with your health.
Dress for the weather
We've seen online those memes about dressing up for the body you have, not the body you want, as soon as the weather gets warmer. And while funny, the truth is we should stop judging people about their clothing choices. I say dress up however you feel comfortable, especially in hot weather. I hate working out in short sleeves, even in winter, so I'm pretty much always wearing a vest whenever I can, unless it's for work, especially because I get too hot around the neck and the underarm. Some advice?
When exercising in summer, opt for breathable fabrics that will have some sort of dry-something-or-another technology, so you stay dry when you sweat. Make sure you skin can breathe and that you're not just adding more heat to your body. If you get sweaty, having a drenched back while exercising is distracting, and can make you feel too cold all of a sudden (I'm looking at you, sun-covering cloud!).
The opposite also applies, depending on your body shape, and sometimes technique, wearing summer clothes can cause chafing when the skin is sweaty and rubbing. I know this from experience, and oh boy, it's painful. I used to wear shorts with longer-shorts underneath to avoid my thighs rubbing together and irritating my skin. Putting on cream will only make it worse. If you need to use something, do your research and get specific products to help with it. I'm no expert on these products, I just used to wear longer shorts that were tight-fitting (to avoid them sliding) and get it done with.
Listen to your body
The best way to avoid feeling unwell in this weather is to listen to your body. The problem is that most of us are not very attuned to our bodies' signals and we pretty much ignore what our bodies are trying to tell us, the most common is thinking we're hungry when we're really thirsty!
We don't realise we're over-stressed, under-slept and dehydrated. We're not eating the right foods and we're not giving our muscles enough rest. When something goes wrong, we treat the symptoms and don't fix the cause and so we end up more and more disconnected with our own bodies.
I used to work in an office, at a desk, and I would fuel myself with coffee and tea, and a Diet Coke mid-morning and a pack of crisps. I used to think I didn't have to drink anymore water than I did. I can't remember how much I drank back then, but my guess is not enough. I would go out drinking (alcohol) a few times per week and wake up with terrible hangovers and extremely thirsty. It's only when I started drinking a lot of water and my body got used to it, that I realised how dry and thirsty my whole body was. Now, if I have to spend an hour talking to a client, my body starts sending me signals that it's thirsty and rather than think I'm feeling peckish, I recognise the signals and grab a sip from my water bottle. The days I don't get to drink enough, I feel sluggish and get a headache that will last for the rest of the day, even the next one, until I manage to top up my hydration levels.
Sometimes it pays to stay indoors or change your workout plans if the weather is too hot and/or humid. If you were planning a run but it's a scorcher out there and you can't find any shade or don't have a hat to wear, maybe better do a short stretch session in your living room and call it a day, try again in the evening. Better safe than sorry!
Do you like training in hot weather? Do you have any good advice? I would love to know!