You know it’s summer in Arizona when:
- The “cold” water from your faucet comes out boiling
- The birds use potholders to pull worms out of the ground
- The temperature drops below 95° and you get cold chills
- You can cook meat on the grill without turning it on
Even though it’s hot as heck outside, there are ways to maintain a healthy, outdoor exercise regimen in Arizona – or anywhere else – during the sultry summer months. If you follow the strategies outlined below, you can stay active and keep in shape no matter how high the mercury rises.
The most important part of beating the heat is staying hydrated, which means drinking plenty of water throughout the day, everyday (shoot for .5-1 oz. of water per pound of body weight). It’s especially important to drink water before, during, and after your workout. This means drinking 16-20 oz. of water before, a few oz. every 15-20 minutes during, and another 16-20 oz. after training to replace the loss of any fluid.
More outdoor exercise tips:
- Exercise in the early morning or late evening
- Slow your workouts down to a manageable pace
- Wear light and breathable clothing
- Wear sweat-proof sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses
- Avoid caffeine, thermogenics, or medications that can accelerate dehydration or increase your body’s heat production
- Keep the water for your workout in the freezer or add ice cubes (ice cold water can help keep your body cool)
- Take extra breaks when necessary (preferably in the shade)
- Spend at least 5 minutes warming up (without it your heart rate can increase too quickly)
- Gradually decrease your heart rate with a 5 minute cool down
If you don’t follow these simple tips you make yourself susceptible to heat exhaustion, which can land you on the couch for days, or heat stroke, which can land you in the ground for eternity. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur when the body can no longer cool itself and your internal organs overheat. In arid climates like Arizona, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are often caused by dehydration; the dry air literally pulls the water from your body. They can also be caused by working out in extreme temperatures where your body cannot rely on heat exchange (giving off heat to the cooler air around you).
Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, weakness, nausea, muscle cramps, inability to sweat, and the feeling of being cold. Heat stroke warnings include vomiting, headache, and loss of consciousness. If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, go to a cooler place and rest in a comfortable position. Drink about 8 ounces of cool water every 15 minutes, but don’t drink too quickly. If you’re at home, loosen or remove your clothes and apply cool, wet cloths. If symptoms worsen or don’t subside, seek medical help.
While it is important to maintain a consistent workout routine during the dog days of summer, be smart when training outdoors and listen to your body. Try to limit your workouts to the early morning or late evening, which will also minimize your exposure to UV rays. If you must exercise during the day, be sure to follow the tips listed above to maximize your performance and minimize your risk of heat-induced illness.