Getting Steamy: Ways to Beat the Heat as an Athlete

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With Chicago’s weather creeping up to the 80’s and 90’s in the next weeks, it’s crucial to know how to keep working out safely in the heat. Heat exhaustion, dehydration and other heat-related illnesses and injuries can hinder training and keep even the pro-athletes from sticking to their regular routine. The good news: it is easily preventable if you take some precautions:

 1. Workout early or late in the day

Unless your race will be in the afternoon, take advantage of the times of the day when it is coolest, and workout in the morning or evening. If you need to train for a race in which conditions will be hot, exercise in a hotter part of the day (with caution) in order to get used to warmer temperatures safely. The Journal of Athletic Training recommends 10-14 days to acclimatize.

 2. Use cold water

Drink it, shower in it or pour it on your head – any way you can, use cold water! An average person sweats between 0.8 to 1.4 liters an hour when they exercise, and it is important to avoid dehydration by drinking constantly throughout the day and your workout. To find out your sweat rate (and how much water you need to replace after your workout), weigh yourself before and after an hour of working out, convert the weight lost to ounces, then add that number to the amount (in ounces) you drank during your workout. Plan out your route so that it goes by water fountains or carry a small water bottle with you when you exercise to stay well hydrated. Showering in cold water also lowers your body temperature and pouring some water on yourself as you workout is great for cooling down.

 3. Wear the right clothing

Wearing a hat and sunglasses is a no brainer for keeping cool, but also light-colored, loose, thin clothing (like Nike’s Dri-FIT) can do wonders in the heat.

 4. Take it easy

Check in with yourself and be honest with how you feel! Take breaks when necessary, and consider other forms of working out that are indoors. Cross training is shown to be beneficial, so take this as the perfect opportunity to test out new forms of exercise.

 5. Ice, ice baby

Freeze your water bottles before your workout so you have cold water the whole time, or use it as an ice pack! Hold it against areas of your body where the blood vessels are close to your skin (namely behind the knees, wrists, back of the neck, and the tops of your feet). Investing in an insulated water bottle like a Hydro Flask is also great for keeping water (and you) cool.

 6. Eat, drink, and be merry…

Just don’t drink a lot of alcohol! Alcohol is dehydrating so watch out not to overdo it. You also lose electrolytes and sodium when you sweat, so drink some sports drinks like Gatorade or POWERADE to replace what you lost. For healthier options, sprinkle some salt on your meals and drink coconut water, which naturally contains electrolytes. You also burn more carbs in the heat, so top off your muscles’ glycogen stores with a smart post-workout snack.

 7. Wear sunscreen

Burnt skin doesn’t regulate temperature as well and promotes dehydration, so slather on an ounce of sunscreen all over your body. Bonus: you’ll prevent skin cancer, wrinkles, sunspots and other signs of aging at the same time!

 8. Think cool thoughts

According to one study, just thinking that it’s cooler can make you train better. Keep your mind off of the heat by focusing on your workout. Sometimes ignorance is bliss!