Summer in Montreal rarely disappoints. It's early July and it's already scorching hot! But I'm not complaining! As long as I have something nearby to dip my feet into, I'm happy!
Although the heat makes it more difficult to exercise, don't use it as an excuse to give up on your fitness routine!
Whether you're into cycling, running or a variety of activities, the effects of training are rapidly lost once exercise stops, especially for those of us over 40. In many cases it takes as little as 4 weeks of inactivity to ruin many months of hard work.
So although we can't stop, we do have to be aware of the dangers of exercising in the heat. There are precautions we need to take once the mercury starts to rise that we didn't have to think about before.
Below are a few tips to protect you against dehydration and heat stress, and keep you moving throughout the sizzling days of summer.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids, during and after physical activity. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. If your work-out is more than an hour, or the temperature is super hot, then water isn't enough. Try a diluted sports drink or G2 to help replace electrolytes that can be lost in sweat. Avoid alcoholic caffeinated beverages for at least a few hours post exercise.
- Exercise smarter. Work out during the cooler parts of the day, early in the morning or early in the evening. Consider taking your exercise inside, to the gym, the mall or anyplace else out of the heat.
- Ease in to summer. If you're used to exercising indoors or in cooler weather, take it easy at first when you exercise in the heat. As your body adapts to the heat over the course of one to two weeks, gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts.
- Dress appropriately. Lightweight, loose fitting clothing helps sweat evaporate and keeps you cooler. Avoid dark colors, which can absorb heat. If possible, wear a light-colored, breathable cap.
- Team up. If you can, exercise with a friend or family member. It’s safer, and it can be MUCH more fun (for most of us).
All that said, learn the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke:
- Muscle cramps
- Cold, moist skin, chills
- Irritability (your partner might have to pipe up here)
- Dizziness, blurred vision
- Weak or rapid pulse
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Nausea, vomiting or both
- Warm, dry skin with no sweating
- High fever
- Loss of consciousness
If you develop any of these symptoms, stop exercising immediately and get out of the heat. Call for help, lower your body temperature and hydrate. Remove extra clothing and if possible, fan your body or wet it down using wet towels or a water hose on your neck, forehead and under your arms, or sit in a tub filled with cold water.
Heat-related illnesses are largely preventable. By taking these basic precautions, your exercise routine doesn't have to be sidelined when the heat is on.