During the spring and early summer, it’s a relief to head outdoors and enjoy the sunshine, warm weather, and snow-free trails. No more bundling up in all your layers every time you go out. And with the days getting longer, you have even more time to recreate outside.
But when the solstice comes around and it’s well into summer, there’s another challenge you have to deal with — and it’s about as far from those snowy, icy days as you can get.
You guessed it — the heat.
By midsummer, temperatures can soar during the day, and depending on where you live, there might not be much relief at night.
It seems like a shame to bike, hike, and run less — after all, you’ve been waiting all winter for this beautiful weather.
The good news is, you can make your summer adventures safer, cooler, and overall more enjoyable with a little bit of planning.
If you’re willing to adapt your routines and take a little extra caution, you can still have plenty of outdoor fun as you exercise this summer.
How Does Your Body React to the Heat?
When you exercise in the heat, what happens to your body?
Maybe you live somewhere hot and you’re used to training in hot weather. Or maybe you don’t like the heat, and you avoid exercising when it’s hot out.
Some people might sweat a lot. Some people notice their heart rate rising. Some people might have a hard time keeping up with their normal pace.
While everyone reacts a little differently to high temperatures, there are a few standard physiological responses to exercising in the heat:
- Your core body temperature rises
- You begin to sweat
- Your heart rate increases
- Your blood vessels become dilated
All of these responses are normal, but you should take precautions to make sure your exercise stays within the limits your body can handle.
If at any point during your exercise you experience any of the following symptoms, you should immediately stop and cool down:
- Feeling cold and clammy
- Extreme thirstiness
Knowing how your body reacts to the heat and the potential danger signs to look for is extremely important if you plan to recreate during hot summer days. Of course, you can do your best to avoid any of these unpleasant and dangerous symptoms with some strategic planning and preparation.
Planning Your Hot Weather Adventure
Hot-weather precautions don’t begin when you head outside — you should be planning your adventures well in advance. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the most important reasons is so you can acclimate. It’s important to give your body a chance to get used to higher temperatures before pushing it through a challenging workout.
Next, you’ll want to check the weather in advance. Notice when temperatures seem to be at their highest — usually between 3 and 4 in the afternoon — and try to schedule your plans at cooler times of the day. Take into account humidity levels too. High humidity can make it feel hotter than it actually is. If the temperature and the humidity are high, you might plan a shorter adventure or pick a cooler activity, like swimming.
As much as it matters when you exercise, it also matters where. Rather than picking an exposed trail, find a route through cooler, shaded areas. Take advantage of shade cast by trees, buildings, or other natural features. If you live near the mountains, you can usually find cooler temperatures at higher elevations. And if you have the choice, choose a natural trail over pavement, which absorbs the heat and makes it feel even hotter.
Choose the clothes you’ll want to wear. Make sure you’re wearing light-colored, loose, and moisture-wicking fabrics. Avoid cotton, because it does a bad job of cooling you down. The day before your hot-weather adventure, check your laundry to make sure your lightest, most breathable clothes are ready to go.
Calculate how much water you’ll need to have with you. Plan to drink 3-5 ounces of water per 20-30 minutes of exercise (.5 Liters/hour is another guideline). Of course, that’s an estimate, so if you’re not used to the heat, you may want to bring more.
And finally, carry water efficiently so it’s easier on your body. The amount of water you need to bring depends on how long you’ll be out, how acclimated you are, and the environment you’re in. You can use handheld bottles for shorter trips. For adventures lasting more than an hour or two, you’ll want to use a hip pack, vest, or backpack that allows you to carry multiple bottles or a hydration reservoir.
Day-of Checklist for Hot Weather Exercise
You know where you’re going, what to wear, and what gear to bring. But before you head out on your hot-weather adventure, run through this checklist to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.
- Hydrate before you head out. There’s nothing worse than being dehydrated before you even begin. Make sure you start hydrating within the hour of going outside.
- Fuel up, but don’t eat within an hour of your hot-weather exercise. Digesting food creates heat and warms up your body — which you don’t want to do before heading outside.
- Fill and pack your water bottles or reservoirs with cold water. Cold water can help cool you down much better than warm water can, and is much more appealing on a hot day. Use an insulated container such as Mazama’s INTAKE Insulated Reservoir to keep your water colder for longer. If you're planning to be out with children or dogs, bring water for them as well.
- Pack electrolyte drinks. You can bring a mix to add to your water or a whole bottle of an electrolyte drink. While replacing your body’s water is critical, so is replacing the electrolytes. Mazama’s DUAL Reservoir features an extra fluid chamber equipped with its own drink tube so that you can supplement your water intake with electrolytes.
- Bring snacks, too. Gels and bars make for easy-to-carry nutrition. You want to make sure you’re replenishing those electrolytes — which is crucial when you’re drinking lots of water. Mazama’s friends at Trailbutter offer great tasting, wholesome nutrition that’s easy to eat on the go.
- Don’t forget the accessories! Wear sunglasses and a light hat to keep the sun off your face.
- Wear sunscreen and protective clothing. Your skin plays an important role in keeping you cool, so it’s important to protect it from sun damage. UV-blocking garments such as Blackstrap’s Brackish Top help shield skin and enhance evaporative cooling.
On the Trail
While you’re exercising in the heat, you should pay close attention to how your body is feeling. Don’t expect your body to perform as well as it does at more mild temperatures — and don’t push it to do so.
Mind your pace. If you aren’t used to the heat, you shouldn’t expect to run, ride, or hike as fast as you normally would.
If you feel the need to rest, hydrate, eat, or cool down — do it. When you take breaks, do your best to stop in the shade or breeze.
Replace fluids and nutrients throughout your workout. Drink roughly 3-5 ounces of liquid every 20-30 minutes of exertion, and listen to your body. If you’re out longer than an hour, replenishing those electrolytes is critical. It never hurts to carry extra water, so when in doubt, bring more than you think you need.
Pay attention to how much you’re sweating. In dry climates, your sweat will evaporate quickly. This makes it hard to tell how much you’re sweating, which can make you think you’re more hydrated than you are. In humid environments, you’ll sweat more. When you’re soaked, take that as a cue to slow and cool down.
And with all that sweating, it’s important to reapply sunscreen every two hours.
After You Exercise
Your exercise isn’t over when you get off the trail — you still need to make sure your body can recover from the heat and the activity.
Make sure to get out of the heat after your exercise so your body can cool down. Go inside, or at the very least, find a shady area where the temperature is noticeably cooler.
Hydrate after you return from your adventure. Make sure to eat, too, but not immediately. Start with cool liquids, then eat after you’ve cooled down.
Let your body rest before tackling another hot workout. Don’t push yourself too far in the heat, and listen to your body. It’s a good idea to alternate hot outdoor activities like biking, running, and hiking with an indoor activity or something cooler, like swimming or yoga.
How Do You Plan to Beat the Heat This Summer?
Whether you love to hike, run, or bike, take care of yourself when you head outdoors this summer. With a little preparation, you can enjoy the beauty of the season while staying cool and safe.
What are your favorite summertime activities, and how do you stay cool while you’re out? Let us know in the comments below!