Going to work every day and staying cool is difficult enough, but how are you supposed to exercise when temperatures are reaching 35°C and humidity is up at 75%? Don’t worry, you don’t have to put a stop to your training. You might have to adapt it, though.
Extreme heat puts a lot of pressure on your body, especially when you’re exercising. You use more energy as your body struggles to maintain your core temperature and you’re exposed to much higher UV levels than normal.
By following our 7 tips below, you can keep exercising and stay safe at the same time! Never underestimate extreme heat. Always be prepared!
1. Stay hydrated
Whether it’s cycling, running, hiking, or any other form of exercise, hydration is crucial during hot weather. Your body will be trying to maintain your core temperature, so it will sweat more to cool you down. During a heatwave, this sweat will evaporate quickly, meaning your body has to sweat even more.
It’s very easy to underestimate how much fluid you are losing, so you have to make sure that you’re taking in fluids regularly. Obviously, this depends a lot on the type of exercise you’re doing, so we’ll give some examples.
For short, sharp exercise, like a 30minute run, you probably don’t need to hydrate during it. We’ll explain more in point 7, but you’re better off preparing some cool, electrolyte-replacing fluids for when you get home.
For exercise that lasts around 45-90minutes, you will need some fluids with you. A small bottle of isotonic or water will be fine. Take small sips frequently. Gulping can leave you feeling bloated or lead to a stitch, so try not to quaff your fluids!
Finally, for long periods of exercise that last over 90-minutes, such as a hike or long cycling session, you will need to bring more fluids with you. Plan accordingly, but remember that it’s better to bring more than you need rather than running dry half-way through your planned route!
2. Dress appropriately
When you’re exercising in extreme heats, it’s vital that you dress in clothing that allows sweat to evaporate and helps your body keep cool. This means wearing breathable, lightweight clothing, such as technical sportswear.
The kind of clothing you’ll wear will change depending on the exercise you’re doing, but avoid heavy fibres such as cotton or wool. Breathable fabrics also have the advantage of reducing irritation and rashes during hot weather exercise.
If you’re out in the sun, remember to wear a hat made from a similar breathable fabric. This shields your head from UV rays and helps to keep you cool.
3. Take it easy
Unless you’re used to running in extreme heats, you’re not going to hit your PB. Exercising in very high temperatures puts a huge strain on your body. The air temperature and higher humidity increases your core temperature, as does the exercise itself. This means that your body needs to pump more blood through your skin so you can sweat more and cool yourself down.
All of this means that your heart-rate is going up as your body tries to meet the demands of your skin and your muscles. You’re burning more calories and more energy, so you’ll get tired quicker and feel more fatigued.
This kind of strain on your body isn’t advisable for a long period of time, so it’s important that you don’t push yourself too hard. Try and slow down, keep your heart rate lower, and take regular breaks.
4. Put on sunscreen
UV will be high during a heatwave, so it’s important that you put sunscreen on about 30minutes before you exercise and then every 1.5 – 2 hours during longer sessions. It’s important to reapply sunscreen this regularly as you will be sweating and the UV is high, reducing its effectiveness.
Remember to use a high SPF sunscreen. Anything above 30 is great, but the higher the better! This means that your skin will have a much better chance of avoiding any burns.
5. Avoid the middle of the day
The hottest period of the day is generally early to mid afternoon (around 1-3pm). Try and avoid exercising at this time when it’s extremely hot, as UV levels will be at their highest and the temperature will be peaking.
During a heatwave, the best times to exercise are either early in the morning or in the evening, before the sun sets. It’ll still be warm, but UV levels will be much lower. Humidity will be lower too, so you’ll be avoiding many of the hazards of a heatwave.
6. Be wary of the road
Road conditions can be more hazardous than you’d think on a very hot day. Tarmac can melt if temperatures get high enough, which can lead to slippery or sticky patches on the road.
If you’re out on the road, whatever the exercise, keep a sharp eye on the area ahead of you. It can be easy to miss one of these patches and give yourself an avoidable injury!
It’s worth pointing out again that you can probably avoid the worst of the road conditions by exercising early in the day or the evening. It’s far less likely the temperatures will be high enough at these times to cause tricky road conditions. That being said, if the heatwave has lasted a few days, you still need to keep an eye out for damage.
7. Prep your post-workout routine
Before you leave the house to exercise, make sure you prepare your post-workout intake. This will depend a lot on the type of exercise you’re doing, as well how long you’ll be out for.
Regardless, it’s a great time to intake fluids, especially an isotonic. Put an isotonic drink in the fridge before you go. This will cool down you when you’re back and replace the fluids you’ve lost.
Depending on how long you’ve been exercising, you might need a snack as well. Something high in carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals will help your recovery.
Afterwards, a cool shower or bath will help to lower your core temperature back to normal. It doesn’t need to be cold, but try to avoid washing with warm water.
Whatever your post-workout routine is, try and prepare as much of it as you can before your workout. The last thing you want is to come back from a run in 30°C heat and then have to make a drink or wait for your ice pack to cool down!
8. Let someone know where you’re going
Extreme heat is no joke. It’s difficult to predict how your body will react to the temperature, especially when you’re exercising. With that in mind, it’s important that you let someone know where you’re going. This is even more important if you’re planning on being out for a few hours or more!
Try and take your phone with you as well. This will allow you to contact a friend or the emergency services if you get in trouble. An armband is an ideal way to carry it, but you could also bring a small sports backpack with you. Most of the time, you’ll want to bring water with you anyway so it shouldn’t be that much of an inconvenience.