We've all read about the dangers of exercising in hot weather, but it wasn't until a recent Sunday afternoon that I learned this lesson firsthand (also known as "The Hard Way").
My friend Kelly and I set off for an 11-mile walk at 10 a.m., congratulating ourselves on our "early" start. It was a gorgeous morning. We started off on a brisk pace and chatted away. But, in the three hours it took us to complete our route, the temperature climbed from 66 degrees to 90 degrees. That's not the worst of it: We hadn't brought any water with us.
As the sun peaked higher in the sky, the heat took its toll. Sweaty, light-headed, and panting, our walking stride was reduced to a slow, lumbering gait. I was starting to get scared. Neither one of us had brought a cellphone to call for help. And to top it off, we had no money on us, so buying a bottle of water wasn't an option. I searched my (wobbly) memory, trying to remember where I'd seen public drinking fountains along the way. We made a detour and found a drinking fountain. As we drank, we laughingly made bowing gestures to the almighty dispenser of cool liquid. Looking back now, I realize Kelly and I were laughing from relief of another kind: Either one of us could have collapsed from heat exhaustion -- or worse. We dragged ourselves up the hill toward my house, proclaiming never to set off for a walk like that again without being prepared for rising temperatures.
A few days later, I related the story to Chris Kirchoff, a fitness coach. Kelly and I had done so many things wrong on our 11-mile jaunt, that I was almost embarrassed to talk about it with a pro. But Chris was a good sport and didn't admonish too badly. For starters, she recommends exercising in the early morning hours. Chris's idea of an "early" start is something closer to the crack of dawn.
"Early morning, such as 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., is great," she says. "Research shows that people who exercise in the morning tend to consistently exercise more because they get it out of the way." Oops! So much for thinking 10 a.m. was a good time to get started.
No matter what the temperature is outside, Chris says to always bring a bottle of water along with you.
"Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces," Chris says. "If you weigh 120 pounds, drink 60 ounces of water each day. And replenish your fluids if you have been sweating excessively." Done and done! Not only will I remember my water bottle, I'll also make a mental checklist of public drinking fountains along my exercise route so that I can refill easily.
Chris also advises wearing clothes suitable for exercise. My black Ramones t-shirt wasn't exactly a good choice on a hot summer day. Something lighter and loose (or made with moisture wicking material) would have been ideal. And never underestimate the power of pockets: tuck a few dollar bills and a cellphone in there, just in case.
Looking back on that hot Sunday, I realize Kelly and I made some bad decisions in our zeal to get some mega-walking in -- and I'm grateful things didn't turn out worse than they did. Chris says it's fine to keep up your exercise routine in the warm weather or if you visit a warm climate on vacation; just use common sense.
What are your tips for exercising in warm weather?