Beat the Heat – Exercise Tips during a Heatwave

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Columbia, SC is no stranger to heat and humidity – we’re not Famously Hot for nothing! While some people may like the heat, many of us fitness nuts groan with the thought of running, cycling or working out in 95+ degree weather. Not only is it uncomfortable, the heat combined with the humidity in South Carolina can be dangerous. According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, heat stroke from exercise is one of the three leading causes of sudden death in sports activities, with heat stroke deaths rising between 2005 and 2009 to higher rates than observed in any other five-year periods during the past 35 years. What does that mean for you? It means stay safe! Which you can do by following our tips for exercise during a heatwave.

  1. Stay Hydrated – one of the easiest and most obvious tips we can give. The hotter it is, the more you sweat and the more fluids your body loses. You need to actively replace those fluids by drinking water and sports drinks, even if you don’t feel thirsty. It’s recommended that you consume 16 to 24 ounces of water a couple hours before exercising in hot temperatures. Past that, take in another six to eight ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise. If your workout is moderate and less than an hour, water should suffice, but for anything longer or more intense, you’ll need a sports drinks to get those carbohydrates and electrolytes back up.
  2. Watch out for the Humidity – there are studies that show that training in extreme heat can boost exercise performance, BUT these studies did not take into account high levels of humidity (over 30%). Humidity is a given here in Columbia so don’t go overboard with heat training and here’s why – the body cools itself by sweating. When the sweat evaporates off of your skin, you experience a cooling effect. In a humid environment, you don’t experience as much of that evaporative cooling effect because the environment is already saturated with water. Good news if you’re training in Arizona – not so good if you’re here in the Midlands. So what can we do to get our workout in?
  3. Skip the Dreadmill – unless you really like running on a treadmill, of course. Otherwise, set that alarm for 4:30am and get used to getting your run in before the sun comes up. This is by far the coolest part of the day in South Carolina and you’ll get used to it, eventually. It’s also a great feeling to get your workout done by 7am and have the rest of the day in front of you. Find some local running groups to keep you motivated and get you out of the bed.
  4. Hop in the Pool – or the lake, river or ocean. Swimming is a fantastic, full-body, cardio workout and one of the best ways to beat the heat and still get your heart pumping. Make sure to wear sunscreen and have a buddy available at any open water swims where lifeguards aren’t on duty. Look into local Masters Swim groups at the YMCA or other pools to improve your performance and keep you motivated.
  5. TABATA – consider some Tabata training. Great for those who are time strapped and easy to do indoors, Tabata training is a high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) that lasts for 4 minutes. The set includes 20 seconds hard with 10 seconds rest x 8. For example, you do as many air squats as you can for 20 seconds (more than 10 is what to aim for) and rest for 10 seconds. This is repeated 8 times until you get to 4 minutes. It doesn’t sound hard, but wait until you try it. Expand the workout by adding Tabata pushups, rows and sit ups – that would be a very intense 20 minute Tabata workout that you can do in your own home, with air conditioning!