Typically, working out in the heat is fine. But things can quickly become not fine if you aren’t conscientious of cooling down. Just as you need to warm up for a few minutes before exercising, abruptly walking away when your time’s up – especially on a hot day – is a bad habit. Your body needs a chance to bring down your core temperature, let your muscles gradually relax and give your heart rate time to return to a normal beat.
Follow my steps below to help cool off after those steamy summer workouts.
1. Drink up
This seems like an obvious step. But it’s at the top of the to-do list, because hydrating MUST begin well before your workout. When the temps are high, start hydrating at least two hours ahead of time – even if your workout is indoors. During your workout, continue to drink about 16 ounces of fluid every hour. It is a good idea to weigh yourself before and after exercising. For every pound you’ve lost, aim to replenish with 16 to 20 ounces of water. Try making a refreshing peppermint iced tea to help cool you off from the inside out. You’ll get the added benefits of tea’s natural antioxidants.
2. Stay shady
After your workout, find a shaded or air conditioned area to cool off. If you’re outside, just be sure to get out of direct sunlight (under a tree, a pavilion, etc.). Inside the gym, find a dark room, such as an empty group fitness classroom. If the lights are still on, turn them off. Throw down a mat, sit or lay down and let your body unwind.
Now that you’ve found a cool spot, it’s time to stretch. Working out in the heat can help the muscles loosen up and may even increase your range of motion. While they’re loose, this is an excellent opportunity to stretch to help improve and maintain flexibility. Stretching also allows your body time to recover and bring down that heart rate.
4. Rinse before you run
If you can, jump in a cool shower (ice cold isn’t necessary) before you call it quits. If your body’s temperature hasn’t come down yet, this should do the trick. Let the cool water hit the pressure points on your head, neck and wrists. Most heat is lost through the head, so don’t be afraid to get under the stream. After rinsing off, towel dry and then apply a skin-cooling lotion. If your face tends to turn beet red, soothe and refresh with a quick spritz of facial toner.
5. Freeze your fuel
Last but not least, eat! You may be craving something cold right now, which is good – go for it! However, sometimes heat can actually cause you to lose your appetite. Even if your stomach isn’t growling, your muscles need refueling. Snack on frozen fruits like grapes, berries and bananas. Of course, you can also throw that fruit into a blender with 100% fruit or vegetable juice and crushed ice for an instant smoothie. Or, make your own ice pops (recipe below!). Whole-food snacks like these are loaded with potassium, magnesium and other electrolytes, which are just what you need after sweating your heart out.
Homemade Icy Hydrators
Makes 8-10 ice pops
2 cups watermelon, cubed
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
Juice of 1 lime
- In a blender, add all ingredients and puree until smooth.
- Pour mixture into ice pop molds and freeze for 3-4 hours.