How to exercise in the heat

7 simple tips for enjoying a safe outdoor workout this summer.
Published 21 July, 2020

When exercising in hot weather, there's one guarantee: you will sweat - a lot!

While getting active outside makes a nice change from home workouts, there are a few precautions to keep in mind as the temperatures start to rise. “Heat has a major effect on our fitness capacity,” explains Ashleigh Kast, a New York City based trainer and founder of Sophisticated Strength. 

The best way to avoid potential pitfalls - like sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion - is to be prepared. Wearing the correct clothing, staying hydrated and working out during optimal hours will help ensure you have a successful workout.

Here, three fitness professionals share the most important things you need to know to move safely in the heat:

1. Rise, shine, and get going

Temperatures tend to be more bearable first thing in the morning or later in the day when the sun isn’t directly overhead, explains Michelle Lovitt, an exercise physiologist and trainer in Los Angeles. No matter what time you head outside, always wear sunscreen, she adds. If you have to work out during the middle of the day, consider shortening the length of your workout to avoid overexerting yourself in the hot weather.

2. Start planning the night before

Staying properly hydrated is always important, and it’s extra important when you’re exercising in the heat. “Freeze a water bottle the night before and carry it with you,” says Lovitt. “It will keep you cool and hydrated during your workout, especially as the ice melts.”

3. Keep tabs on the humidity

It’s not just the temperature that matters: relative humidity plays a big role in how hot it feels during your outdoor workout, explains Lovitt. “Humidity impacts the ability of the body to cool itself off, because sweat doesn’t evaporate from the skin as quickly. As a result, the temperature feels much hotter than it actually reads.”

4. Wear the right sneakers to avoid blisters

When the temperature's climbing and you’re sweating (everywhere), blisters are a major concern, and a major workout buzzkill. “Wear a shoe that breathes and fits just right,” explains Kast. In addition to the fit, take the material into consideration. Look for airy mesh or a light fabric and avoid leather sneakers if possible, she adds.

5. Know the signs of dehydration

It’s natural to feel sweaty and tired when you’re exercising. It's called “working out” for a reason! However, when you’re exercising in the heat, it’s important to be diligent about looking for symptoms of exhaustion or dehydration. Feeling nauseated, experiencing dry mouth, losing colour in your skin, and feeling confused, dizzy, or faint are potential warning signs explains Lindsey Clayton, a New York City based trainer and co-founder of the Brave Body Project. “If you're excessively sweating, light-headed, or nauseated, you should complete your workout indoors or shorten it,” she says.

6. Use smarter intervals

Instead of heading outside and logging high-mileage walks, jogs or cycles, aim for a shorter workout of speed-walking intervals or tackling a few incline hills. If you’re doing an interval workout of walking bursts followed by recovery periods, take longer rest breaks than usual. Kast suggests keeping a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio or one with a higher rest period.

7. Dress the part

Your inclination may be to go as bare as possible, but a shirt that wicks away sweat can be a great makeshift towel for wiping sweat or dirt off your face, and may ultimately be a better choice, explains Kast.