How to exercise in the heat and improve your fitness

Exercising in the heat can actually improve your fitness, but only if it’s done properly. (Thinkstock)
Think it’s too hot in the summer months to enjoy a run outside? Think again. Exercising in the heat can actually improve your fitness, but only if it’s done properly.

Lisa Reichmann and Julie Sapper of Run Farther and Faster explain the physiological changes that take place as temps soar, and offer their best tips on how to safely burn calories in the summer sun. (Thinkstock) 

Train like an elite with heat

Summer’s sweat and swelter may be uncomfortable, but it isn’t all bad.

“The good news is, when you exercise in the heat, you’re actually becoming fitter. After acclimating, you’re able to adjust to the heat, and when the fall temperatures return, things will feel much easier because you’ve endured these hot temperatures,” Sapper said.

She compares exercising in the heat to a less-intense version of altitude training.

“Many elites go out to Colorado to train. We don’t have to travel, we have it right here.”

But before you hit the pavement or trails, there are some things to keep in mind. (Thinkstock) 

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Hydration is key to staying comfortable 

Once the thermostat hits 65, the body immediately begins to respond to the heat.

“Blood volume increases, your sweat rate increases, you sweat out less electrolytes,” Reichmann said. “Your body adapts to the heat so that you can actually exercise in the heat more efficiently.”

Staying hydrated is one way to help your body better adapt. How do you know if you’re hydrated? Sapper says the best measure of hydration is your urine.  

We say to our runners it needs to be clear and copious,” she said.

Sometimes, the recommended eight glasses a day will cut it. Other times, you may need more. (Thinkstock) 

Cyclist Riding a Bike on the Country Road. Rear View. Summer Nature Background. Healthy Lifestyle Concept. Instagram Styled Toned and Filtered Photo. Copy Space.
Slow it down

Whether you’re riding a bike, running or playing a pickup game of soccer with friends, there’s no shame in taking the intensity down a notch. In fact, it’s likely your pace will slow without intent.

“There are many studies out there that support that pace slows when the temperature is above 65 degrees,” Sapper said.

Reichmann adds that performance decreases by about 10 percent for every 10 degrees above 60 degrees.

“Instead of trying to fight that, slow your pace. It’s OK; you’re still reaping the benefits of exercise, you’re still reaping the benefits of a run. Acknowledging that you need to go slower will minimize your frustration.”

And take comfort in knowing that it’s not just you.

“Every time you look at results from a race that’s run in hot weather, you can tell from beginner runners to elite athletes, it affects everybody equally and everybody’s performance has slowed by about 10 percent. Nobody is immune,” Sapper said.

When cooler temperatures return, so will your pace. (Thinkstock) 

Close up woman walking on a path. Fitness concept.
Time is on your side 

Move your outdoor exercise plans to the morning and evening hours to avoid the hottest times of the day. The summer’s long days make this easier, since it starts to get light around 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t get dark until about 8:30 p.m.

Waking up early to work out isn’t always a good motivator, but Reichmann and Sapper say, “baby steps.” 

“You don’t have to wake up everyday, but give it a try maybe one or two times a week,” Sapper said.

And if you need a little extra motivation, find a workout buddy.

“You won’t turn that alarm off knowing that someone is relying on you to arrive on time for your exercise,” Sapper said. (Thinkstock) 

Get the right gear

Getting in the right gear can help keep you cool and comfortable for your outdoor expeditions. Sapper says “cotton is rotten,” and the best material to wear is something that wicks away the sweat.

If you’re running or walking, consider investing in a hydration belt.

“You don’t have to drink a ton of water while running, but certainly having it handy and knowing you can drink to thirst, it’s really important and nice to have that available,” Sapper said.

Don’t forget the sunscreen, sunglasses and a visor — these will keep you protected and save any extra expended energy for your workout. (Thinkstock)

散策路、山道、森林コース、散歩コース、トレイルランなどの
Seek shade 

It’s no secret that a workout in the shade is more comfortable than one in the middle of a hot, open road. During the summer months, ditch the concrete routes and opt for more covered and scenic paths. In the D.C. area, Rock Creek Park and the Capital Crescent Trail are great options for bikers, runners and walkers. 

Just remember to stay alert in your surroundings and keep an eye out for branches, roots and other obstacles. (Thinkstock) 

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Replace electrolytes 

After a workout in the heat, Reichmann says it’s important to replace your electrolytes. You can get them through natural foods, such as bananas, raisins and spinach, or you can take an electrolyte capsule. (AP Photo) 

Here are six tips for making the most of your time on the treadmill.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Use common sense 

Both Reichmann and Sapper stress that common sense is imperative when it comes to exercising in the heat.

“If you start to feel lightheaded, dizzy, if you stop sweating, these are all signs of possible heat exhaustion, which can lead to heat stroke. So if you get out and you’re exercising and something doesn’t feel right … call it a day,” Sapper said.

And some days are just too hot for any activity outside. When the mercury spikes, don’t hesitate to take your workout indoors. Training on a treadmill or stationary bike can give you a great workout. (AP Photo) 

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Exercising in the heat can actually improve your fitness, but only if it’s done properly. (Thinkstock)
Glass of water
Cyclist Riding a Bike on the Country Road. Rear View. Summer Nature Background. Healthy Lifestyle Concept. Instagram Styled Toned and Filtered Photo. Copy Space.
Close up woman walking on a path. Fitness concept.
散策路、山道、森林コース、散歩コース、トレイルランなどの
bananas.jpg
Here are six tips for making the most of your time on the treadmill.  (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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