By Chris Contois, MPT, CSCS
Whether you run, bike, or garden, exercising outside in the fresh air is one of the joys of life. But Oklahoma’s hot and humid summer months can lessen these outdoor pleasures. Keep these six tips in mind to stay active, while also avoiding injury or heat-related issues.
- Hydrate. Exercising in warmer weather typically makes you sweat more. Because of this, your body loses more water than usual. Make sure to replace it by staying properly hydrated. A general rule of thumb is to drink 8 to 10 ounces for every 20 minutes of activity. Don’t worry about sports drinks or other supplements. Plain water will do the trick.
- Warm up. Even if it’s hot outside, your body still needs a warm up before exercising. Take a few minutes to do some gentle stretches, light activity, or rhythmic movement before you start the more intense parts of your workout.
- Don’t do too much too fast. Give your body time to acclimate to the heat and humidity. Even if you normally run two miles without trouble, that amount of activity may feel more difficult under these strenuous weather conditions. To start, try a bit less distance, time, or intensity than normal and then gradually work your way back up.
- Don’t exercise in the heat of the day. Early morning (around 6:00 am) is often the coolest time of day in Oklahoma. This makes it one of the best times to exercise outside, especially if you’re walking or running with your favorite furry companion. If you’re not an early riser, after sundown can be a cooler time as well. If you’re walking or running in the dark, make sure to take safety precautions, such as reflective gear or shoes, to make sure you are visible to cars. In general, avoid mid-day and afternoon workouts because that’s when it will be the hottest and put the most strain on your body.
- Have a plan B. If it’s simply too hot to do the exercise you had intended, you may have to change course, and that’s okay. If you have a membership, take your workout into an air-conditioned gym to run on a treadmill, ride an exercise bike, or lift weights. You could also workout from the air-conditioned comfort of your home. You can purchase inexpensive workout DVDs or find plenty of great (and free!) workout videos on YouTube. You could also subscribe to an app or other service, so you can workout at home when it’s just too hot outside.
- Have fun. You’re more likely to stick with an exercise routine when you genuinely enjoy the activity. This is even more true when the heat and humidity might discourage you from exercising. Choose an activity you like a lot. It could be something that’s part of your year-long routine, like walking or gardening each morning. Or you could try something new this summer, like online yoga classes. Even in the heat, the options are endless. Just stick with it and have fun!