Monday, July 15, 2013

Working out in the HEAT.

Well, my 2 week vacation is over and it's back to work for me!  Needless to say I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself.  [Enter whiney voice] "It's not fair, I don't want to work, I want to live a life of leisure!"  I also want to eat massive amounts of food every day and weigh 115 pounds, but neither of these things are going to happen, right?

I wanted to talk today about working out in the heat.  Since much of the country is experiencing a heat wave - including us in the northeast, FINALLY, it's important to know what you need to do to stay safe working out when it's really hot.

Motivation - Some people think the heat is an excuse to skip a workout.  IT'S NOT.  Not any more then any other excuse you use to skip working out.  Work out in the early morning or later in the evening if you have to, but get your workouts in.

First off, the obvious - DRINK.  Lots of water during your workout but also hydrate throughout the day, which you should be doing anyway.  Some people get cramps drinking really cold water while working out, so you might be better off drinking water at room temperature.  

SLOW DOWN - Give yourself permission to slow down some.  Yesterday I ran 13 miles in the blazing heat.  It was hard but then I forced myself to slow down.  My pace was off by about 30 seconds per mile, but that's okay.  You should not expect to set any personal bests in the heat!  Your body is working really, really hard and it needs to be cut a break.  The good news is that you are burning a ton of calories because your body has wor work so much harder.

Speaking of giving it a break, TAKE BREAKS.  I usually power out a run without stopping, but I stopped yesterday at least 4 times to just catch my breath, take a drink, and slow my heart rate down.   

People are going to hate me for this one but.... TURN OFF THE AIR CONDITIONING.  If you are one of those people that runs your air conditioning in your car and your house all the time, you're going to have a much tougher time working out in the heat.  Your body needs to adjust to hot weather, and if you allow it to, you'll find it much easier to work out when it's hot.

Sports drinks - most of these are filled with sugar and empty calories.  Avoid them like the plague.  It's all about the water, people!  Keep some fruit around that is high in both water and nutrition - watermelon is my #1 recommendation!

Wear sweat wicking clothes - they really work!

No protein before a workout.  I know, I usually lecture people to get in their protein.  But not in this case.  There is evidence that protein makes you sweat more - so don't eat anything high in protein before a workout in the heat.

Protect those you love - that includes your kids and your dogs.  If they are your exercise partners be careful.  Dogs can't sweat it out as well as we can and they can't tell you that they are done for.  Don't be an idiot and take your bulldog on a fast paced 4 mile walk in 90 degree temps unless you want to kill him.

Get thee to water - if you are lucky enough to have access to a pool and/or a body of water use that for your main exercise.  Swimming is generally great for you, but it's especially good in the heat.  And don't limit yourself to just swimming - water aerobics, running through water - great exercise!

And finally:  USE COMMON SENSE.  If you are feeling dizzy or nauseous, it's time to call it quits.  All the time I see people "bragging" about how they did Insanity so hard they puked.  Puking is NOT NORMAL for a workout.  It doesn't mean you are hard core, it means you're fucking stupid.  AND in hot weather it means you could be endangering your life.  Feeling sick, shaky, suddenly cold, becoming disoriented - these are all BAD signs.

So there's no reason to call off your exercising during the heat wave, just be smart about it.


  1. Very nice post, but one quibble -- I don't think you actually burn more calories exercising in hot weather. You sweat more and lose more water weight, but most sources I've seen agree that the actually calorie burn is unchanged.

    See, e.g.,

    1. Your point is well tàken, BUT I would argue that for MOST people, working out in the heat is more difficult which leads to an increased heart rate which leads to more calories burned.

      I weighed over 3 pounds less after my 13 mile run. Of course I didn't lose 3 pounds of fat! BUT, I did burn more calories per mile then when I run in say 60 degree temps.


    2. Well, maybe, but if you're running at a slower than usual pace (as you wisely recommend), then your heart rate shouldn't spike. Of course, it'll take you longer to run the same distance, so gross calories burned would be higher simply because you're on your feet longer.

  2. Don't forget one other sign that you are in trouble: if you stop sweating. You should be drippy. If you're dry, stop NOW!!! And learn the emergency treatments for heat related illness. It could be you, or someone else.

  3. It is a concern if you do not sweat I AM ONE OF THOSE! It is still possible to exercise with caution in the heat. Jen has made many great points... I find the best for me being EARLY AM if I can not do my running then I find I need to do indoor. Our late afternoon and eves are still VERY HOT.
    I spent 18 years living in Death Valley ..SO I KNOW HOT...I now live 2 hrs nw of it so still high dessert and very hot in the summer 99 yesterday.

  4. A half mile, leisurely walk suits me just fine in this weather.