Heatwave: How to exercise safely in the sun and hot weather
Hydration is key – and planning your workout times. (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)
The UK is about to be hit with a heatwave. And on a weekend no less. Incredible.
As a country, we are notoriously ill-equipped to deal with any kind of extreme weather, and we certainly don’t get a lot of practice navigating 30 degree temperatures.
So, when the sun really turns on the heat, how can we make sure we’re staying safe and healthy – particularly when it comes to exercise.
High intensity fitness – whether that’s a HIIT class, a run, or playing sport – can be dangerous in hot weather if you don’t take certain precautions.
The experts at GolfSupport.com have enlisted Elliot Hasoon, founder of EH Coaching and host of The Simply Fit Podcast, to share his top tips for anyone who want to work out outside on a hot day:
Exercise early or late at night
‘Exercising in the early hours of the day has many advantages, it’s quieter, it’s before the busyness of the day begins, and it’s a lot cooler,’ says Elliot.
‘Set your alarm earlier and complete your workout as early in the day as you can to ensure you avoid the higher midday and mid-afternoon temperatures.’
He suggests that if you’re not an early bird, waiting until the sun goes down will be your second-best option.
‘It won’t be as cool as it is in the AM, but the heat will be considerably lower allowing you to train without too much trouble,’ he adds.
Elliot says that one of the biggest concerns to look out for when training in the heat is dehydration and maintaining ‘optimal fluid balance’.
‘As we exercise, our body’s core temperature will naturally increase resulting in us losing bodily fluid through sweat,’ says Elliot. ‘The heat will increase our temperature further leading to even more fluids being lost through exercise.
‘You should drink about 250-300ml 30 minutes before your session, you should continuously sip water throughout the workout, and ensure that you drink between 500ml-1L post workout.’
He also says you need to be mindful of avoiding electrolyte imbalance.
‘Electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, all play vital roles, such as maintaining fluid balance, muscle, and nerve function, regulating blood pressure, among many more,’ Elliot adds. ‘So, you can supplement with electrolytes to help maintain this balance.’
Is it ever too hot to exercise?
It can be tempting to use the hot weather as an excuse to take your trainers off and skip your session, but is it actually ever too hot to exercise?
The US National Weather Service states these potential risks after prolonged exposure and/or physical activity:
Caution: 26-32 degrees Celsius, fatigue possible
Extreme caution: 32-39 degrees Celsius, heat stroke, heat cramps, or heat exhaustion possible
Danger: 39-51 degrees Celsius, heat cramps or heat exhaustion likely, and heat stroke possible
Extreme danger: 51 degrees Celsius or higher, heatstroke highly likely
We’re not likely to get beyond the ‘Extreme caution’ category here in the UK, but it is still worth taking extra precautions.
It’s also important to keep in mind that women are typically affected by heat illness more than men, due to their higher percentage of body fat and lower aerobic power.
Of course, regardless of the temperature, if you just don’t feel up to it, or would rather spend your sunny day relaxing and reading a book, that’s fine.
You don’t actually need a ‘legitimate reason’ to skip a workout. Just do it when you feel like it.
Reduce session times or split them up
‘If you have no choice but to train in the heat, it’ll be worth reducing the time you’re exposed to it,’ says Elliot.
‘The longer you’re outside, the more chance you have of becoming dehydrated and experiencing the negative impacts of the heat.’
Elliot says if your workout is typically one hour, three times per week, perhaps you can try 30-minute sessions instead, and do them five or six times per week.
‘So you complete the same amount of exercise but reduce your exposure by 50%,’ he explains.
‘You could also look at splitting up your workouts, perhaps you can carve out 30 minutes in the morning to get the first half down before the sun rises and you can then wrap up your session later in the day.’
‘Function over fashion is key if you’re training outdoors in the heat,’ says Elliot.
‘Wearing lighter coloured, sweat-wicking clothes will be favourable. Not only do we want to focus on keeping our core body temperature lower, but we also want to ensure we’re comfortable too.
‘The heat will already be an element of discomfort and you don’t want to add poorly fitting attire on top of this too.’
Consider your accessories
‘An armband that will hold your water bottle, sunglasses, or a bum bag that you can pop sunscreen in will help – especially if you know you’re sensitive to the sun.
‘Applying sunscreen before you head out to exercise is a great tip too.’
Listen to your body
Elliot says that your body may still struggle to adjust to the heat even when you follow all of these tips to the letter.
‘Listen to your body and the signs it gives you,’ he says. ‘If you feel faint, dizzy, or simply too hot, stop.
‘Start with shorter workouts, longer rest periods and lower intensity sessions. You can increase the intensity as your body adapts. Initially just focus on keeping yourself as healthy and safe as possible.
‘The transition will take time so be patient with your body and continue to eat and sleep well to support your body as it adapts.’
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