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Exercising in the Heat

9 ways to keep your summer workouts safe.

Summer Exercise Tip No. 1: Acclimate Yourself

"When the weather warms, you need to be acclimated to the temperature change," says William O. Roberts, MD, FACSM, a family medicine and sports medicine doctor at the University of Minnesota’s Phalen Village Clinic. "Expose yourself regularly."

Branch tells her clients it can take up to 14 days to adjust to temperature changes. When clients are preparing for an event that will take place in the heat of the day, Branch coaches them to be active in the heat ahead of time: "They have to try to get out in the middle of the day when it’s hot and exercise in order to acclimate to the conditions for the event."

But remember, if you are just doing routine exercise, it is better to exercise outside when it is cooler, such as the early morning or evening. (See more about this in tip No. 5.)

Summer Exercise Tip No. 2: Stay Hydrated

When it comes to summer exercise, all our experts agree that the biggest concern is hydration.

Suzanne Girard Eberle, author and sports dietitian in Portland, Ore., says that if you come back from a summer workout 1 to 2 pounds lighter, you’ve got to do a better job keeping up with hydration. You lose 2 1/2 cups of water per pound of body weight lost, she says.

If your urine is the color of lemonade, says Roberts, you’re well hydrated. If it’s darker in color then you may be dehydrated.

"If you’re going four to six hours without eliminating, you’re not hydrated enough," adds Eberle, a former elite runner and author of Endurance Sports Nutrition.

To maintain good hydration for a moderate summer workout, Roberts recommends drinking 20 ounces of water two hours before exercise, at least 8 ounces of water shortly before getting out in the heat, and then a gulp every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. Make sure to talk to your doctor about specific fluid intake when you exercise.

To stay better hydrated, says Eberle, drink fluids with food throughout the day.

Summer Exercise Tip No. 3: Slow Down

When the temperature hits the 90s, don’t expect to go out and set a personal record, says Roberts.

"If it’s hotter than you’re used to, cut the pace back or cut the exposure back," he says. "Don’t try to do the same pace you did the day before."

Be careful about trying to keep up with friends who are more fit or have a higher tolerance for heat as well, says Eberle.

"Just realize you are going to be slower," says Eberle, "and particularly on humid days, it’s going to take you longer to finish."

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