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Summer Maintenance: Taking Your Workout Outdoors

By April Harris-Swales,  Professional Fitness Trainer, Cooper Fitness Center

Finally—it’s time to shake off those winter doldrums and take your workout outside. Some of our favorite spring and summer activities include running, swimming, tennis, golf or even just taking a walk or playing tag with your kids. But any exercise enthusiast would agree—there are a few things to consider before heading out that door.

  1. Preparing your body for the elevated temperatures is essential. I can’t stress enough how important proper hydration is for safe outdoor activity. We should already be drinking 6-8 8 oz glasses of water per day. But if you’re also drinking caffeine, you need to increase your water to intake by at least one more glass. It would also be a good idea to add a sports drink, such as Gatorade or Powerade, if you plan to exercise outdoors longer than 1-2 hours. Don’t plan to be out that long? Water will work just fine. It’s also smart to start with lighter workouts at first and gradually increase the length and intensity as your body acclimates to the heat.
  2. Proper warm-up and cool-down is a must. An effective warm-up helps prepare your muscles for work by making them more pliable and responsive. Dynamic stretching (stretching with movement) will accomplish this nicely. Cooling down is equally important. A slower paced walk followed by moderate static (holding) stretches will bring your heart rate down gradually and help aid the recovery process.
  3. Pace yourself. Too many of us have made the same mistake—we try to do too much too fast. It’s great to be motivated by nicer weather, but pushing ourselves too hard can lead to muscle strain/cramps or worse, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. These injuries can be dangerous and will keep you from reaching your goals. If you begin experiencing any of the following symptoms, stop immediately: weakness, headache, cramps, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea or vomiting
  4. Wear appropriate attire. Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing is the way to go. It allows cooler air to pass over your body and helps sweat evaporate faster. This is especially important when the weather is humid and your body has a harder time dissipating heat. Lighter colors also help and caps made with stretch-mesh will move moisture and shade your face. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and apply it often!
  5. Watch the clock. Planning your exercise in the morning or evening hours is much safer than getting out in the midday sun, when our Texas temps can reach 95+ degrees. But if you’re limited to that time, be smart about it. Prepare yourself, limit your exposure, and listen to your body. Exercise in the shade or the pool whenever possible.

Always remember that it is better to error on the side of caution than risk getting injured. So if you’re outside sometime soon and are worried about your safety, simply take your exercise back indoors.

For more information about Cooper Fitness Center visit our website or call 972.233.4832.

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