Working out in the summer heat can be a miserable, sweat-soaked endeavor. When it’s a bazillion degrees outside with 500% humidity, sometimes all you can think about is just lying on your couch in your air-conditioned living room, never mind trying to exercise! As much as you want to stick to your workout plan, intense heat can nearly derail your motivation. But with the proper preparation, you can keep your workout game strong throughout the dog days of summer. Follow these tips to stay cool while you work on your fitness goals.
1. Get the timing right
Blazing sun isn’t going to do you any favors, so if you are going to exercise outside (or if you don’t have air-conditioning), schedule your workout for early morning or late evening. “It’s ideal to work out before or after the heat index rises,” says Elizabeth Kovar, an ACE Master Trainer and mind-body movement specialist. “If your schedule doesn’t allow you to work out during those hours, play it safe by working out indoors.” Beachbody On Demand has over 600 home workouts to choose from, which should be plenty to keep you occupied during the warmer months.
2. Stay hydrated
You’ve heard it a million times, but we’ll say it again: stay hydrated. This is advice you should follow all year round, and it’s especially important during warmer months when you’re likely sweating more than usual, no matter what you’re doing. When you add exercise into the equation, drinking water becomes even more crucial to avoid dehydration.
“Guidelines recommend consuming 17–20 ounces of water two hours before exercise, 7–10 ounces of fluid every ten minutes during exercise, and 16–24 ounces for every pound of body weight lost after exercise,” says Jessica Matthews, MS, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. You may also want to replace electrolytes with a formula like Beachbody Performance Hydrate.
3. Eat to beat the heat
You usually crave different kinds of food when it’s 90 degrees versus 19 degrees outside, and there’s some logic to that. Eating the certain foods can increase your body temperature, which isn’t ideal if you’re trying to stay cool. “Avoid spicy foods, which stimulate heat production,” Kovar says. “Also, high-protein foods and anything greasy will be harder to digest, thus enhancing internal heat production.” When you’re grabbing something to eat before a workout, stick with easy-to-digest foods like fruit or yogurt, instead.
4. Dress for the weather
Workout clothes exist for a reason–usually regular cotton sweats just don’t do the best job of keeping your body comfortable when you’re sweating buckets. Moisture-wicking fabrics are much better at helping you stay cool and dry. “Lightweight, loose-fitting, minimal clothing can provide a greater skin surface area for heat dissipation,” Matthews says. The color of your clothes matters, too–black may be slimming, but light colors reflect the heat from the sun.
5. Scale back
On crazy-hot days, you may need to change your “go hard or go home” philosophy to “go easy or go inside.” If you’re acclimated to hot weather, then you may be able to tolerate exercising in heat. But if you live in an area where three-digit temps make headlines, scale back when a heat wave hits. “Anything lower intensity or steady state is probably more achievable mentally or physically,” Kovar says. If you’re planning on doing high-intensity interval training, she adds, “Try to find a shaded area or take the training indoors.” With Beachbody On Demand, you can get in an workout at home (hopefully with air conditioning), whether you’re looking for weight-training, cardio, or a high-energy dance program.
6. Heed the warning signs
Heat exhaustion isn’t a push-through-the-pain situation. Unchecked, it can lead to dangerous situations—so if you start to feel crampy, dizzy, or nauseous, stop immediately and start doing damage control. “Drink plenty of water and remove any unnecessary clothing,” Matthews says. “You can also mist your skin with water to bring your body temperature down.” If your skin is hot but not sweaty, or your pulse feels fast and weak, those are signs of heatstroke. “Call 911 and get cool any way that you can until help arrives,” Matthews says. Anytime the heat index is over 90 degrees, you’re at risk for heat exhaustion; over 105 degrees, it’s almost a given. So play it safe—if you know you can’t handle the heat, head indoors.