Exercising in the summer months can present a real problem if you live in a heat-zone or an area with high humidity. Even if you are working out indoors, you still have to take care to not overexert yourself. Along with the common issues of dehydration and muscle cramping you also have to work about sunburn and sun poisoning. We have been having high humidity for a couple of weeks so I have had to tweak my workouts to avoid having any heat related problems. Because I have to worry about the heat trapped inside my prosthetic I am more aware of the outside temperature and when I need to take a break but not everyone is going to have the same warning signs. Sweating is good but excessive sweating can be extremely harmful.
Hydration: Chances are you aren’t fully aware of how much liquid you are losing when you are exercising. Some of it evaporates but most stays in and on your clothing. Staying hydrated with water is best but for those who are training on a regular basis you may need something like Gatorade (or the lower calorie version G2) to replenish electrolytes. Things to avoid: anything containing alcohol, soda, drinks that are high in sugar, from-concentrate juices. There are single serve water enhancers that you can add to bottled water when you need a little bit of a switch but be sure to get the sugar free versions.
Clothing: For females, a solid sport bra with a moisture transport system will help prevent chaffing and irritation. For males, boxer briefs are going to provide protection and support but will help pull moisture away from the skin. Under Armour is one of the most popular brands for ColdGear and HeatGear clothing; if you can pull the moisture away from you there is less of a chance of irritation and soreness. Wearing lighter colors can help deflect the sun so leave the black shirts and leggings for the fall and winter months. Changing your socks often is a good idea; if your feet are sweating you could end up with shoe odor but the bigger problem is blisters which could lead to infection.
Temperature: Most gyms have some form of air circulation; if they do not have air conditioning they should have something to remove some of the humidity. If you are training indoors you are going to want to pay attention to your body temperature; if you are sweating and there is a fan blowing directly on you it might feel good at the time but could lead to sore muscles or an ear ache later on. If you are exercising outdoors be sure to check the forecast for the humidity level; most people can handle a 90 degree day better than an 80 degree day with 90% humidity. Taking breaks often and sitting or standing in the shade will help your body from overheating; that could lead to heat stroke as well as severe dehydration and muscle cramping.
Swimming: Most people overlook swimming as an alternative form of exercise; because I am an amputee I have a little trouble getting in and out of above ground pools but if it’s hot enough I figure out a way. Swimming provides an almost total body workout and you can even do cardio exercises to strengthen and condition. You need to make sure you are wearing a waterproof sunscreen if you are going to be swimming in an outdoor pool. Public pools are usually crowded in the warmer months so if you are a germaphobe you might want to look in to a local gym that has a pool. Even if you have to pay by the month for June, July and August, you are going to enjoy it more and still be able to exercise.
Walking: If you walk as a form of exercise make sure that you have something with you to drink or at the very least a couple dollars so you can stop and get something cold. Don’t push yourself too hard; if you normally walk three miles try trimming it down to two. Keep in mind. The farther you walk the farther you have to walk home. Consider walking in the early morning before temperatures start to climb or in the early evening when it can be a little cooler. Avoid taking younger children and pets with you when you walk, they can be affected by the heat quicker than you. Do not wear perfumes or cologne when walking in the summer months, not only can they act as a skin irritant but when combined with your own pheromones they can attract insects.
Common sense can go a long way when you are exercising in the summer; there is a fine line between pushing yourself to the limit and crossing the line to where you are in danger. Ribbed abs and tiny waistlines are not worth being hospitalized for dehydration or heat stroke.