It’s no secret that Australia has a hotter climate than almost anywhere else on the planet. This is especially true during the Summer and for those in the northern parts of the country. Everybody and everything struggles when the temperature gets near (or above!) 40℃. Cars overheat, the power grid can’t keep up, and the roads start to melt. Doing much of anything is a struggle, and exercise is near impossible. But, there are some things you can do to stay cool.
Health concerns to watch for in the heat
Being out in the heat for too long can cause symptoms of heat exhaustion such as weakness, dizziness and muscle cramps. These conditions can become serious if you don’t rest and cool down immediately. Heatstroke can cause long term damage to the heart and brain and should not be taken lightly. If it’s too hot, a healthier choice is to stay cool in the air conditioning.
Drinking plenty of fluids is of the utmost importance. Sweat is the main way the body cools itself and is mostly water. Evapotranspiration brings heat off your skin when sweat evaporates, sometimes leaving behind a salty residue. Therefore, it’s also important to supplement with electrolytes to replace the salt and other minerals that get the sweat out. It’s generally a good idea to drink lots of water during the day, and this is especially true when it gets hot. Make a note on the emphasis of ‘water’. Coffee and sugary drinks can actually cause you to lose fluids.
Stay cool in the heat
If you can, bring a small cooler filled with ice and a damp towel to your workout. Draping a cold towel over your neck is an efficient way to cool down during a water break. On top of feeling refreshing, it can also help regulate body temperature. Cyclists and ultrarunners often have a cold towel over their shoulders for this reason. The neck has lots of nerve endings and is like a heat sink. So much heat leaves through the neck that rock climbers will often put their hand on the back of their neck to warm it up from the cold rock. It’s an active way to bring heat away from the body, and it feels great, too.
Change the time of exercise
This method is one way to beat the heat and is possibly one of the easiest ways. You can still do everything you love to do and maintain your exercise schedule. The only thing that needs to change is the time you do it. The heat comes from the sun, so get up before the sun does and work out before it has a chance to warm up. Adjusting to morning exercise takes time. Gradually, waking up earlier can help make it less painful. People also report feeling happier and more energised during the day after a morning workout, so dragging yourself out of bed can be worth it.
Modify your routine
Modifying your workout schedule can also be a positive way to cope with the heat. Go for a run but go at a slower pace and not as far. The exercise will still be effective, but the numbers may not be as impressive. Shorter runs that focus on speedwork can be a good way to get a good workout in without being outside in the heat for too long. Alternatively, slow it down to a walk through a shaded park. The main point is to stay active when the weather is hot.
If nothing else, there is nothing wrong with taking it easy for a few months when the weather is unbearable. There’s a reason why certain sports have an offseason. They need time to properly recover and rest. The same can apply to you. Take some time to focus on other aspects of your life and health that you want to improve. And when you do decide to work out, use some of these tips to stay cool!