Published: Apr 11, 2014 9:14 AM EDT
Updated: Apr 11, 2014 9:35 AM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Temperatures are starting to rise here in Southwest Florida, so taking your workouts outside seems like a great idea.

For some people, just thinking about exercising in the heat makes you feel weak. But a little preparation beforehand, can ensure a safe and effective workout. WINK News Fitness Expert Mike Drumm is here today with his warm weather workout tips to "beat the heat."

As our Southwest Florida temperatures rise, taking your workouts outside seems like a great idea. BUT for most, just thinking about exercising in the heat makes you feel weak. The good news is that with a little preparation beforehand you can ensure a safe and effective workout. Wink News Fitness Expert Mike Drumm is here today with his warm weather workout tips to “beat the heat” and prevent heat-related problems during your outdoor exercise.

Mike: Exercising outdoors during this time of year can be awesome. It’s a great change of scenery from looking at the walls inside your fitness center, and you can work on your tan. It can also be very dangerous. The biggest thing I have to stress is that you listen to your body. If you start to feel dizzy, faint or nauseous, stop your workout immediately. This is not the time for “going hardcore” pushing yourself to extremes. In fact, if you know you’re not acclimated to the heat yet and the temps are into the 90’s, you may want to consider keeping your exercise indoors.  The good news is by following a few simple tips you can protect yourself from heat related illnesses.

Warm-Weather Workout Tips

1.      Dress Appropriately. Loose-fitting polyester/cotton blend clothing or other fabrics designed to wick away moisture will help keep your body cooler. It’s not sweating itself that cools your body, but rather the evaporation of sweat. So avoid wearing clothing that soaks up sweat but doesn’t allow it to evaporate.

2.      Stay Hydrated. The more you sweat, the more you’ll need to rehydrate to avoid heat cramps, exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke. Make sure to carry a bottle of water with you, and drink often. You’re better off drinking a small amount more frequently than downing a lot of water all at once. If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, at a moderate intensity, water is the best thing to help you stay hydrated. It’s only when you’ve been exercising for longer periods, such as 60 minutes or more, or at an extreme intensity, or on a very hot day or at your full exertion level, that you may need a sports drink like a Gatorade more than water to replenish your body.
3.     Time your Exercise. Sun and humidity levels are highest during the midday, so to minimize the effects of the heat, work out either first thing in the morning, or in the late evening.

4.      Protect your skin. Conventional advice is to apply sunscreen before heading outdoors. Another common-sense strategy to protect your skin is to wear a light-colored, loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt and a cap. 

5.      Go slow until your body has acclimated to the heat. Start slow, exercising in the heat for just a few minutes at a time, and gradually increase the amount of time as your tolerance builds. Again, signs of increased tolerance include breaking into a sweat more rapidly, and your sweat being more diluted or watery.

Remember these quick cool-off tricks:

  • Seek shade. Exercising in shady areas, such as tree-lined trails and parks, will help you stay cooler when the temperature rises.
  • Cold Water. Running cold water over your forearms will help reduce your body temperature.
  • Spray Bottles. Using a spray bottle, spray cool water on your skin while fanning air on it Ice Packs.
  • Apply an icepack or cooling neck wrap to your neck and arms.

Running in heat is difficult, because blood has two conflicting interests - supplying working muscles and going to your skin to cool your body down. So there is less blood for the muscles, your heart has to work harder, your heart rate increases, and the relative intensity of the run increases. You simply cannot run as fast in hot conditions.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Problems

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are your primary concerns, so make sure you stay alert to the warning signs. The first sign of trouble usually presents itself as heat cramps—usually in the stomach, arms or legs. Treat heat cramps by:

Drinking water and/or Gatorade for electrolytes, and
Resting in a cool, shaded or air-conditioned area.

Your number one concern is to lower your body temperature and rehydrate your body. If symptoms persist, you should seek immediate medical attention.