By Kim Munson
Summer is officially here. The sun is out, the days are long, and the temperatures are high. As someone who loves being active outside, there is nothing better! This is the time to explore the outdoors, try new outside activities, and take your workouts outside.
Some of my favorite summer activities are biking, hiking, and outdoor running. I also enjoy taking my strength workouts outside and doing them at local parks/fields in the fresh air and sunshine. There is something extra satisfying about sweating outdoors and spending time in nature (even urban nature).
If you are new to exercise or not used to outside activity, the thought of spending time outside on hot summer days may be the last thing you’d think of trying, but I strongly recommend you give it a try! With the right preparations and safety precautions, it can be so enjoyable you may begin to dread the thought of being stuck in a gym.
Weather you typically workout in a gym or are new to working out, here are my tips to make your outdoor summer sweat sessions highly enjoyable:
- Expand your definition of a workout. With the abundance of outside activities available in the summer, there are numerous ways to get your physical activity in besides heading to the gym for a regular workout. Spending time outside can be fun and you may not even think you are “working out”. For instance: spend a day hiking a local park or preserve, hop on a local bike path and explore the area, spend the day at the pool swimming with family, head to the beach for walking or running along the shoreline, head to the park with your kids or friends for some recreational sports, spend time walking at a local farmers’ market (and buying fresh and healthy produce). Keep the focus on the activity and having fun and you won’t even think of it as a workout. Activities like these make great complements to your regular workouts and are fantastic substitutions for cardio days.
- Give your body time to adjust to the warmer weather. Gradually increase the time and intensity of your outdoor activities. It can take the body two weeks to acclimate to the rising temps. “Proper acclimatization can result in better sweat response, lowered heart rate, and lowered body temperature[i]”, which will make exercising outside seem easier.
- Wear cool clothing. Dress for the heat in lightweight “moisture wicking” fabrics. This often means staying away from cotton since it ends up soaked and heavy in sweat, and looking for some sort of polyester “quick dry” fabric that allows sweat to dissipate quickly. (There are many affordable choices and styles; your local Target store is a good place to start).
- Guard against UVA/UVB rays. Protect your skin, wear sunscreen. The harmful UVA and UVB rays not only cause burns, but can lead to skin cancer, wrinkles and premature aging. I also recommend a hat with a visor (you can find these out of a “quick dry” material too) and sunglasses that guard against UV rays. (Concerned about potentially toxic chemicals in your skin products? Check out The Good Guide, a site that rates products like sunscreens based on how good they are for you and the environment).
- Hydrate; Drink and carry water with you. The high temps will have you sweating more, which mean you’re more prone to dehydration. It is important to have water to replenish lost sweat. If you will be outside and active for longer than 90 minutes, you may also want to consider a sports drink or some sort of electrolyte replacement to replenish the sodium and minerals lost through sweat.
- Know the danger signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion:
- Confusion, Dizziness, Fainting, Fatigue, Headache
- Muscle or abdominal cramps, Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Pale skin, Profuse sweating, Rapid heartbeat, High body temp
- Avoid the hottest part of the day. Plan your activities for early morning or early evening, when the temps are coolest.
- Think about location. Get off the roads and hit the dirt; asphalt heats up so trails are great to try for walking, running, and biking, especially ones shaded by tree cover. The coast is often cooler than inland and might offer a breeze. Pick urban parks that you know have shade and water.
- Adjust your pace/intensity. Gauge your workout intensity by perceived effort rather than a set pace and adjust accordingly. It’s perfectly okay to be slower while you’re body adapts to the higher temps, and take more rest as needed.
- Have fun! With so many activities suited to this time of year, there is bound to be something you will enjoy. Try new things, go to new destinations, and include friends and family (or enjoy in solitude).
Spending time outdoors has been proven to give us both physical and mental health benefits. Time in natural settings acts like a mini break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, decreases stress, and increases positivity. Summer is the perfect time to get outside and be active. Find something you enjoy, be smart about your abilities, and have fun!
Ready to take your fitness to the next level? Let me help you find the perfect program. Contact me today for a free consultation.
Kim Munson is a Fitness Coach and NASM Certified Personal Trainer specializing in outdoor, athletic based, functional fitness. She enjoys spending time outside and can be found running, biking or generally sweating at some location in the the south bay/San Jose area.
[i] Acclimatization Strategies—preparing for exercise in the heat. Shapiro, Y., Moran, D., Epstein, Y. Heller Institute of Medical Research, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 1998 Jun;19 Suppl 2:S161-3