It’s summer! We’re in the thick of the heat, from the east coast to the west. I love the sun and the vibrancy of summer, but I do not love being hot. Building up a sweat at the gym is not the same as being sticky and uncomfortable out-and-about.
I will always choose running outside on an outdoor track or around the neighborhood than being stuck on the treadmill, but how do I stay safe?
- Drink a lot of water. Why does this tip keep popping up on my lists? Why do I keep making lists? One, because water is the most important thing you put into your body. Two, because it looks better than lengthy paragraphs. Drink water throughout the day in preparation of that after work run or workout or maintain hydration throughout the day, then start your day with two glasses before your morning run.
- Dress appropriately. I’ll workout in a tank top and shorts during the winters of Boston, or at least leggings, as I’ve never come around to the idea of sweatpants, but this is especially prevalent during the summer. When working out, comfort needs to be optimal. Clothing should be breezy and prevent you from such atrocities as chafing.
- Go early in the morning or later in the evening. Regardless, be safe. The heat of the day (in LA is pretty much always, but it’s better in the morning or before the sun goes down) can be brutal, so try to find the sweet spot that works best for your schedule. Unless you thrive in the brutal heat and humidity (who are you?!), you’ll need it to survive. *I actually love running at night in the summer, but this is not practicing what my mother calls situational awareness, as I’d be on my own. As my favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder, says, I need to “stay sexy and not get murdered.”
- Sunblock. I need to be better about this. My upper body has quite the tan thanks to all my outdoor runs (and okay, time lounging on the beach), but I do try to ‘block before I get out there, even if the sun isn’t fully out yet because, like most things in life, sunlight is better in moderation- too much or too little can be detrimental to your health.
- Mix it up. When I headed to the track the other day, it was still hot out around 6:30 at night. I was hot and not up for a long run, so I mixed it up with intervals of running and walking. This can actually be more effective to heighten your heart rate and I found it more manageable to know walking was only a few minutes away than a steady run.
- Hike, Swim, or Strength Train. Running is great cardio exercise, but it is not the end all be all. After six years, I still have a love-hate relationship with running that will never quite be defined. I love that I can do it easily, quickly, and without fuss, but sometimes it can be brutal to get through. For an outdoor workout, try hiking as it will tend to provide shade and better allow you to be present in nature; swim laps, splash around, or just tread water, as it is one of the best exercises for all types of people, but beware if you, like me, dye your hair blonde, because green looks good on very few; body weight train and use any and all equipment available to you- I’ll do yoga, go through a quick series of bodyweight exercises, jump rope, or sneak equipment outside if the AC is malfunctioning and the room is crowded.
- Eat well before and after. Dehydration is not the only pitfall of a heavy sweat session. Your energy stores will need to be replenished with both sugars and salt post-workout, especially when out in the sun. I personally don’t drink gatorade or juice because I’d rather enjoy my calories in other ways, but before my workout, I make sure to eat a healthy snack like peanut/almond butter and baby carrots or a piece of fruit after my workouts. In a crunch, a popsicle is never a bad way to go! *Of course this works better for afternoon/evening workouts. I usually workout in the morning and don’t eat right before, mainly because I sleep as long as possible, but my meals the night before are healthy and well-rounded to help me get through.
- Listen to your body. One of the most obvious pieces of advice you’ll find popping up on healthy living posts, but one of the hardest to follow. At some point, I’ll address my lack of concentration inspired by my phone and the cultural idea of “multi-tasking,” but for now I’ll stay on topic. Your body wants to tell you everything you need to know, but we don’t know how to listen well. Whether it needs a certain food, more water, more exercise, less, the body knows. If you’re out running or exercising and you start to feel dizzy, light-headed, or an undefined “wrongness,” stop. If it feels too hot and stuffy before you start to workout, go inside. If you absolutely can’t bare to be indoors after a long workday of sitting in a frigid, unnatural air conditioned environment, keep the intensity to an easy/medium level, length of time brief, and enjoy. Sometimes, the best part of summer can just be a walk around the neighborhood.