Beat the Heat
Summertime presents most people a great opportunity to exercise and get back into shape. The weather is nice, there are multiple activities around our community in which to participate, and finding others to join you is usually pretty easy. However, the searing Oklahoma summer heat actually presents more problems than does the colder weather. Following some basic tips can literally save your life.
I believe the most important tip is to drink plenty of fluids. This includes pre-hydrating before running, biking or some other activity by trying to drink 20 ounces of water and then continuing to drink during the activity if possible. Failure to consume adequate fluids is the primary cause of heat stroke and so its importance cannot be over-emphasized. Of course, continuing to drink following the activity is vitally important to re-hydrate your body. The commercial advertising of the "ultra" beers (with the fit and active actors roller-blading and mountain biking all while pre- and re-hydrating with beer) makes it seem that alcohol is appropriate to meet your fluid needs. Sadly, it is not. It can actually make matters worse. So, please, stick to water or one of the other sports drinks on the market.
Try to adjust to the heat by altering your exercise times. It just makes sense to be outside when it is cooler, so work-out early in the morning or late in the day. If you are out in the heat of the day, take the time to protect your skin with sun-block. Skin cancers are the most common cancer of the human body and most are the direct result of sun exposure. The types of sun-blocks now available are very easy to apply (sprays or gels), so use them and save yourself some problems down the road.
It is also important to take time to acclimate to the heat. This can often take one to two weeks, so I recommend gradually increasing your exposure during this time. As you adjust, your body actually becomes a more efficient cooling machine. The body adapts by producing more sweat (which is a good thing) to cool you as it evaporates. This point is especially important if you are just getting started on your exercise regimen.
Finally, you may need to alter your workout plans because of the heat. This may even mean lowering your expectations by decreasing the distance or time of the exercise. Your heart is going to pump faster and work harder in the heat in order to get blood to your skin to cool you. Increasing your heart rate is not necessarily a bad thing, but the blood traveling to your skin and not your muscles will alter your performance. Your body will tell you when it is stressed, so listen to it. Pushing yourself to your limits is one of the great things about fitness, but don't do it in 105 degree heat.
These tips are simple, sensible, and you have undoubtedly heard them before. They are useful all year, but are most important in the summer. So, exercise smart and enjoy a happy and healthy summer.