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HEALTH & WELLNESS GUIDE | Vol. 40, No. 5, August 26, 2010
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Exercising Through The Elements

by Sean Boone

Enduring The 'Dog Days' Outside

Although it's almost September, it's still hot out there. And it's often downright miserable to be outside, especially if you're exercising.

But that doesn't mean you should wait to get back into your outdoor exercise routine. With the proper hydration, time and wardrobe planning, your fitness won't succumb to the extreme temperatures (even though it may be a really good excuse).

The hours spent outside running, biking or performing any other aerobic activity can often seem like an eternity compared to a hefty workout at the gym or treadmill climb in the downstairs study. That's why those who make their living as fitness instructors in Florida make sure to plan ahead for the seasonal adjustment.

"One of the most important things that you must do is to give yourself appropriate time to acclimate to the heat and humidity," says Josh Presnell, owner of Fixed on Fitness. "If you have been exercising inside the gym or at home, you will likely need to scale your workout back a little until your body has had time to get acclimated to the new environment."

Presnell and his wife Kenzie run Fixed on Fitness, a six-week outdoor boot camp program held in Bayview Park. The workouts are intense, which makes the summer months a grueling challenge for those who aren't prepared.

"While exercising outside, it is important to wear lightweight clothing, preferably with wicking material," says Presnell. "You will also need to make sure that you stay hydrated, not only before and after your workout, but throughout the entire day. You should look for signs of dehydration during the day such as fatigue, headache, dry mouth, the sensation of being light-headed, or dark urine with a strong odor."


Fitness and medical experts agree that you can never drink too much water -- particularly in warmer months. Because humidity levels are so high in the South, it's often hard to cool off because our body sweat never can evaporate.

"Hydrating is extremely importantand it's not just water you need," says Paul Epstein, owner of Running Wild. "You lose a lot of electrolytes, calcium and magnesium. You really have to take some form of electrolyte supplement to help your body."

Epstein says to stay away from fitness drinks that have more than 15 grams of sugar and to stick to powder mixes or drinks such as Nuun that won't cancel out your workout or make you even more dehydrated.

But the long-time competitive runner and fitness expert emphasizes that you should still drink plenty of water, even when you are exercising.

"I drink about a gallon of water a dayand that's not water while I'm exercising," he says. "If you're out (exercising) longer than, say, 45 minutesit's a necessity to take water.

"There are so many parks with water fountains, there is almost no excuse to not be able to get water. We put a water cooler out in front of our house this time of year for this very reason."

If you are feeling dizzy and fatigued, there is no shame in walking or taking a break to hydrate. Also, make sure to avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages if you plan on exercising -- or just being out in the sun in general. You should also remember to drink more water in the morning to compensate for yesterday's losses and make sure to always listen to your body.

"Even if you are well-hydrated and acclimated to the heat, you must always listen to your body when exercising on hot days," says Presnell. "I stress the importance of this every day at camp. You should always be aware of the signs of overheating such as pale, clammy skin, hot dry skin, becoming light-headed or dizzy, or nausea."


Wearing light, breathable materials that are sweat retardant are crucial.

"It's all about getting as much moisture off of your body as possible," says Epstein. "Any evaporation, which aids in cooling, is not just a comfort thing, it's a health thing."

Epstein says that shoes aren't as critical as having proper socks to prevent blisters from the sweat that forms during long workouts. He recommends having at least two pairs of shoes so that one can air out and dry while you use the other, and if you still are having trouble with wet feet, adding cedar shoe inserts to absorb the moisture.


Your typical seven-minute mile or hour-long bike rides might have to wait until October when heat and humidity numbers lower.

"Most people have to slow down because it's harder to run at the same intensity," says Epstein. "Taking walk breaks is important for some people."

Overworking your body in 90-degree heat is also unhealthy and can lead to overheating and heat strokes. notes that many prescription and non-prescription medications -- such as decongestants, appetite suppressants, antihistamines, antihypertensives, and antidepressants -- can greatly increase dehydration and prevent the body from recognizing danger.

"If you do feel that you are overheating, move inside or into the shade, sip cold water, and place a cold washcloth or ice pack on your neck," says Presnell.

And always remember that it's exercise and you should be having fun -- know your routine, your limitations and stay smart and healthy.