Ahh, summer: The sun, the blue skies … and the outdoor workouts where it’s so warm, you feel like you’re melting into the sidewalk. But don’t let soaring temperatures keep you stuck inside the gym—or stuck on the couch. After all, studies show that working out in the heat kicks up the intensity of your workouts, making them even more effective. So, before you head out for your next sweat session, here are some simple ways to stay strong—and cool—out there.
Here’s the burning truth: You may lose up to 3% of your body weight due to dehydration during endurance sports. This means when the sun’s out and you’re sweating, you have to make sure to hydrate right. Studies show that you can determine how many ounces of fluid you should be getting on the daily by dividing your body weight in half (so a 150-pound person should be sipping 75 ounces of water a day; you’ll know you are properly hydrated if your urine is the color of light lemonade).
Prep your body well before your workout by sipping 16 ounces of water 90 minutes before exercise. And when you’re out there? Shoot to drink 3-6 ounces every 15-20 minutes during your workout.
To make sure you’ve got enough to sip on, choose a route where you’ll pass a few water fountains; or carry portable hydration, like a backpack or handheld bottles; or stash some bottles in key spots along the way during a walk, run or ride. Once you’re done, drink another 16 ounces to replenish the liquids you’ve lost.
Beat the Heat Hack: Freeze your water bottles before heading out in the heat. That way, your liquids will stay cold no matter how hot it gets out there.
Get in Gear
When you’re getting dressed to work out in the heat, leave the cotton clothes in your dresser drawer. Instead, opt for light-colored gear made with a more breathable material (think: synthetic fabrics like micro-fibers and synthetic fabrics). Designed especially for exercise, they help evaporate the sweat your body generates, allowing you to cool more efficiently.
And make sure you’ve got yourself covered from head to toe, literally: A lightweight hat or visor will protect your face from the sun and keep sweat out of your eyes, while thinner socks will help to keep your feet cool while you’re pounding the pavement.
Beat the Heat Hack: Stash your hat in the freezer for about an hour before you head out for a cold jolt that’ll help lower your body temp from the get-go.
Begin your workout with a chill: A recent study showed that starting your workout with cooled skin can let you last longer in the heat at a higher intensity. Wrap a cold towel around your neck, put on a cooling vest, run through your sprinkler, or dump ice water on your head. By starting off with a lower core temperature, you’ll be able to endure the high temps for a more sustained amount of time.
Beat the Heat Hack: Start and end your workout at a pool or a lake. Take a dip before and afterwards for instant relief on either end. Bonus: Chilling your muscles post-workout will help flush lactic acid out of your legs, aiding a speedier recovery and less soreness.
Seek the Shade
The wisest time to exercise is in the mornings and evenings, when the sun’s not at full strength. But if you find yourself having to squeeze in a mid-day workout, look for shady spots: tree-lined paths, between buildings, or even by a long fence that casts a shadow on the road. Experts say there can be an up to 20-degree difference in the shade compared to a route that’s totally exposed to the sun, so seek out the shade wherever you can.
Beat the Heat Hack: Be mindful of the way the wind’s blowing. Head out with a tailwind on your way out—and into the headwind on your way back. That way, you’ll be cooled off by the breeze once your body is starting to heat up.
Your smartest move when it comes to exercising in extreme temps? Listen to your body. If you experience any signs of heat exhaustion, like nausea, fatigue and dizziness, stop exercising right away. Drink water and seek shade or head into an air-conditioned building if you can. Above all, take it easy out there—no workout is worth a trip to the hospital.