The long, hot, and humid days of July have begun here in Toronto.
If you’ve never been to Ontario at this time of the year, imagine feeling like you’ve stepped into an oven every time you go outside.
The heat can be adjusted to eventually, but the unrelenting humidity in July and August is one of the few things I truly dislike about living in this part of North America. It’s inescapable, and it can make 30°C (86°F) feel like 40°C. (104°F).
Exercising in the depths of summer comes with its own unique challenges. Today I wanted to talk about some of my favorite ways to stay fit when the weather is much warmer than normal.
Take a Hot Bath First
This was by far one of the most surprising tips I discovered while working on this blog post. Last month there was a study published on the effects of taking a hot bath before being asked to exercise in a hot, humid room. The runners who were assigned to this part of the study became acclimated to the heat faster and ran farther than the participants who were cooled down before they ran.
That study reminded me of that old wives’ tale about drinking hot beverages during heat waves to help your body cool down more efficiently. There have been a few smaller studies that showed this was effective, but the data about them was pretty scarce while I was doing my research on this.
Pick the Right Time of Day
As you might have already guessed, I’m not a big fan of heat waves, but there is some relief to be found even in the depths of August if you’re willing to save your workouts for times when the sun is either not shining or is very low in the sky.
Evenings are much more comfortable times for exercising on all but the hottest of days. Once the sun begins to set, Toronto breathes a sign of relief. Our sidewalks and parks become flooded with people and pets enjoying the cooler weather.
Alternatively, early mornings are also a good time to squeeze in a workout because the sidewalks and ground in general have had all night to release the heat from the day before. Sometimes early summer mornings can even feel a little chilly if you head out early enough.
Pick the Right Activity
I’m a fan of street hockey, but it’s not the kind of game I’d want to play on a 40°C day. A walk would be the most strenuous form of exercise I’d feel comfortable doing when the weather was that hot, and even then I’d prefer to do it in the shade or at a cooler part of the day.
You can become dehydrated quickly at those temperatures, so I dial my activity back when it’s that warm outside even if I’m carrying a bottle of water with me.
With that being said, it is safe to exercise in hot weather if you acclimate yourself to it and tailor your workout to your age, fitness level, and weather. The article I just linked to was talking specifically about jogging, but the general principles of it can be applied to any other form of more strenuous exercise as well.
Am I the only person who sometimes forgets to drink enough water on hot days?
One of the biggest dangers of exercising outdoors at this time of the year – other than getting a sunburn, if you’re fair-skinned – is accidentally becoming dehydrated. It can happen faster than you might think if it’s very humid outside or if the hot weather has dampened your urge to eat and drink like it does for me.
My parents live in the desert Southwest, so they are accustomed to bringing a bottle of water from home wherever they go. I’ve been thinking about getting into this habit as well this summer.
There are public drinking fountains in Toronto, but there aren’t as many of them as I’d like to see and there are barely any of them in our parks at all. Carrying my own water is something I need to do if I’m going to be spending time outdoors in July and August.
Wear Breathable, Comfortable Clothing
The other day I was browsing through a rack of workout clothing. I was surprised to see how many of the pieces were made from fabric blends that included rayon or polyester.
Synthetic fabrics like these are good for chillier seasons, but they’re the last thing I’d ever want to wear when the weather is hot and humid because they don’t absorb sweat or breathe the same way that cotton does.
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do at this time of the year is wear anything that’s going to make me perspire even more than I already am.
Listening to your body is always a good idea, but it’s even more important when you’re pushing yourself more than normal.
Skipping or shortening one workout isn’t going to have an effect on your longterm fitness goals. It’s much more important to stay safe than it is to ignore potentially dangerous symptoms like dizziness if your regular workout is too much when the weather is hotter than usual.