Fighting the Dog Days of Summer

It gets miserably hot in the middle of an Alabama summer. But some days are worse than others and if you’ve been raised in the south you know why. It’s the humidity. At its worst the humidity on an already hot day can make breathing feel like you’re underwater. But why does the humidity make it feel so much hotter?

The answer – evaporation. Our body produces sweat to help keep us cool, but that only works if the sweat evaporates, because evaporation is a cooling process. So when the relative humidity of the air is high, meaning the air has a high moisture content, the sweat evaporation process slows down. The result? It feels hotter to you. The opposite occurs if the air is very dry. Even on a 100 degree day, it can feel a little cooler to the body if the air is dry because sweat evaporates quickly.

So how do we combat this kind of stifling air soup? Here are a few tips…

1. Drink more water.

This one should be obvious. Exercising in hot weather increases our body temperature. Our body’s natural cooling system can start to fail if we’re exposed to soaring temperatures for too long. The result may be heat exhaustion – that awful fatigue that makes you feel as if one more step could be your last. You may even suffer heat stroke.

2. Check your pee

A good way to know that you’re hydrating properly is by checking the color of your urine. If it’s pale yellow (think lemonade), you’re well hydrated. If it’s darker (heading toward the color of apple juice), drink more. But do be aware that some medications and supplements alter the color of urine, so this gauge, while good for many, does not work for everyone. To be safe, do drink the recommended 8 to 10 ounces of water for every 20 minutes of activity.

3. Don’t over hydrate

Drinking too much water, called overhydration, can lead to hyponatremia (low blood sodium). To stay hydrated but not overly so, here is our general guideline: Drink during and after exercise and other physical activities. At other times of the day, drink when thirsty.

4. Keep a cool towel handy.

Filling a cooler full of ice water to soak a towel can be a quick way to help bring down body temperature. But if you are going to use this method, walk outside the gym… for obvious reasons.

5. Be consistent.

Your body will begin to adjust somewhat to the heat but only if you maintain some consistency.

6. Timing matters

When all else fails, exercise during the cooler parts of the day. The hours between 10a-4pm are the worst. Instead, try getting up at dawn or go later in the evenings to take advantage of the dramatically lower air temperatures. If you do feeling faint and/or sick, stop immediately. Sit down in the shade, drink water, and always have with you a nourishing snack. Pick juicy snacks like fruit. The last thing you need in scorching heat are dry snacks like crackers, popcorn, or energy bars that require your body to add water. Plus, dry snacks are often dense with calories, which mean they can easily foil weight-loss goals, summer or winter.

So there you have it. Keep these tips in mind whenever those dog day temperatures begin to soar and you’ll be set to get the most out of your summer workouts.

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