If your motivation wanes when temperatures climb, don’t throw in the sweat towel. Instead, prep by taking a few extra precautions. These tips from Jen Gottlieb, a personal trainer in New York City, will help you work out smarter—not harder—in the heat.
1. Be an Early Riser
Schedule your sweat session during the early morning when the temperature is cooler, says Gottlieb. The sun’s rays are brightest from 10:00 a.m. 4:00 p.m., so if you’re a late riser, wait until at least mid-afternoon to take your workout outdoors. Just be aware that while rays might no longer be bright, late afternoon sweat sessions in urban areas could still be hot because aspalt and concrete retain heat. If it’s an option, head to a grassy area instead.
2. Wear Lightweight, Light-Colored Clothes and SPF
“Darker clothing attracts more sunlight, which will make you a lot hotter,” says Gottlieb. And don’t forget the sunscreen: Not only can a sunburn raise your risk of skin cancer, it can also cause dehydration and hamper your body’s ability to cool down, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
3. Exercise in the Shade
Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean that you have to go for a run on an exposed road. Hide from the sun’s rays by jogging on a wooded (shady) trail or doing a bodyweight workout under a tree. And remember to pace yourself—especially if you aren’t used to exercising in the heat.
4. Drink Strategically
To stay hydrated, you’ll have to do more than chug a glass of water 15 minutes before your workout (hello, stomach cramps). Instead, start boosting your fluid intake the day before you work out, says Gottlieb. The next day, drink during your workout. Afterward, fuel up with a protein shake or even a few pieces of juicy fruit (think high-water-content fruit, like melons or peaches). “It can be exhausting to work out in the heat,” says Gottlieb. “If you’re going to be sweating, you need to replenish your glycogen stores right after you’re finished.”
5. HIIT it Hard
Instead of measuring your training in minutes, give every minute your all. Trade in the slow-and-steady workouts for high-intensity interval training. You’ll get your heart pumping in 30 minutes or less by alternating 20 to 30 seconds of all-out work with rest intervals. Try tackling a HIIT workout from Fitbit Coach. Or create a DIY sesh with movements like jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, and sprints. And don’t worry about cutting your workout short; all of these short segments help build overall endurance. “The more that you exercise, the stronger you get, and the longer you can work out,” says Gottlieb.
6. Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
“Some people get it into their head that they just have to keep going,” says Gottlieb. And while exercise should be about pushing yourself, it’s also important to know your limits and respect Mother Nature. “If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous, stop,” says Gottlieb. “That’s not the regular type of discomfort that you want to feel when you’re exercising.” If you feel a headache coming on or experience nausea or confusion, you could be at risk of heat stroke.
So how long is it safe to stay out? There’s no cut-and-dry answer. “Everyone’s tolerance to heat is different,” says Gottlieb. “Listen to your body. If you feel like something’s wrong, stop what you’re doing, go in the shade or an air-conditioned room, and when you’re feeling better, go back out and try again.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.