Welcome to summer, y’all! As soon as this irregular northwestern gloom clears, we’ll soon all be sweltering together. While there’s reasonable dread about this time of year, when the air is redolent with honeysuckle and yesterday’s garbage, it can be a time of sweaty enjoyment.
As a personal trainer and the token jock at Freed Bodyworks, I observe the heat as a challenge, not a deterrent, to my hardy exercise habit. Our bodies are built to adjust to the heat, but that magical process takes roughly two weeks. To ease this harsh jump into the heat, I’ve typed up some tips to make your settling into summer a little more comfortable. My hope is to encourage you to enjoy safe, strenuous workouts in the great outdoors, and appreciate the light and warmth of the summer months. During this time, I entreat you to be attentive and patient with your body, and treat yourself as your own most important person.
Preparing for the Heat:
Start early. Once the temperature starts to creep above 82*F (27*C), and the sun gets higher in the sky, exercise becomes incrementally more challenging. While that adjustment to an earlier start can be … painful, it can be the best way to start fresh. For motivation, I enjoy getting my summer sweat on with the (actually-all-year) November Project, which kicks off its free and magical “hills for breakfast” workout at 6:30 a.m.
Make it easier for your body to cool down swiftly. Wear light, breathable clothes, such that your hard-earned sweat can evaporate as quickly as possible. If your energy is going towards maintaining a regular body temperature, it will be considerably harder to kick out a third set of squats.
Ensure your clothing is comfortable and not restrictive. Like many humans, I experience thigh chaffing in the summer. To make my runs less painful, I wear a light legging to keep my thighs from rubbing together.
Protect yourself from the sun’s mighty rays: apply sunscreen (with an SPF over 15), and perhaps even consider donning a fetching baseball cap for coverage.
Adjust your expectations. During your adjustment phase (ie. now), I’d suggest limiting the intensity of your outdoor workouts. Be prepared for it to take you longer to run a mile, for hills to be more arduous, and for sprints to be more challenging. You’re being a boss just by getting your sweat on — now’s not the time to set your PRs.
In the Heat of the Moment:
- Water, water, water. Pregame, game, and postgame with plenty of fluids. Two hours before exercise, you’ll want to drink 500 – 600 mL (ie. a standard bottle of water); during exercise imbibe somewhere around 200 mL (ie. a lil bit more than a juice box); afterwards drink 450 – 675 mL (another standard bottle). With these quantities, judge your water intake by how much you’ve sweated out, and try to replace at least the amount you’ve lost.
2. More fluids! For especially sweaty days, a diluted ‘sports drink’ allows your body to replenish the electrolytes you’re sweating out and re-charge with the carbohydrates needed to power those muscles. And because it’s sweet and we’re humans, we tend to drink these beverages with more enthusiasm. There are plenty of options outside of commercial sports drinks — I’d recommend these delicious recipes if you’ve got a mind to brew your own.
3. Nutrition. In the heat, even starting early, don’t work out on an empty stomach. Try to have a small, energy-dense snack an hour before you hit it (i.e. banana, peanut butter, trail mix). Heat can exacerbate the feeling of nausea while working out, so having a break between eating and beginning your warm-up is clutch.
4. Pay attention to your body. Specifically, watch out for fatigue and cramping–these can be signs that your body is overheating. Heat exhaustion leads to heat stroke which leads to the emergency room. Take breaks in the shade to keep yourself cool, and seek as much cover from the sun as possible.
2. Adjust your attitude (if possible). Conceptualize the most incredible summer rewards: a brilliant shower, a delicious smoothie, a cool towel on your forehead.
This summer, I’m excited to try new things: kayaking on the Potomac, hiking Sugarloaf, exploring Harper’s Ferry, and taking some long runs on the C&O Canal. Though I’m a tepid cyclist, I’m excited to take a bike ride on the northern section of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park, which closes to car traffic on weekends, leaving the street as a biker’s paradise. If you’re local, the District also offers free exercise centers to residents, some inside (and air conditioned), and some outside — I help coordinate Queerfit, a fitness group for queer and trans people, which meets at the Park View Recreation Center.
It’s nice to take things slow in the summer, but after the adjustment, I embrace the outdoors. Most thrillingly: DC’s outdoor pools opened on Memorial Day weekend! My favorite is East Potomac Park on Haines Point. You can see the Washington Monument while you’re swimming! While the summer heat can be foreboding, staying active throughout the season does wonders for my overall mood and health.
See you on the trails!
Notes: I had huge help from Melanie, who edited this blog post for the Freed Blog and made my heat scrambled brain churn out some pointers.