The weather this spring has been crazy. Here in Yerushalayim, unusually heavy rains at the end of April and even some rain into mid-May has had those of us who have lived here for a while talking about the weather quite a bit. Unusual cold in the Eastern third of the United States and unusual cold in Europe as well might have temporarily caused you to forget about hot weather, but the reminder is here! As spring transitions into summer and the weather is heating up, it’s a good time to remind ourselves about what precautions to take when exercising in hot weather and the need to keep up our exercise no matter what is going on outside. There are many benefits to your outdoor workout you shouldn’t give up.
There are endless excuses people have for not exercising. And while time restrictions are still the number one reason people don’t exercise, weather is often times a popular excuse. It’s too hot, too cold, and too windy or it’s raining or snowing. And these days when you can go to the gym or simply put on a DVD or video clip of exercise in your house, it’s almost too easy not to go out. This time of the year the heat can be a justification for skipping a session, but with a little bit of creative thinking, and adjusting the times of the day, we can do our outdoor workouts and remain fit and healthy throughout the summer. Let’s look at some of the issues you should take into account when planning your workout.
Like any type of workout, indoors or out, it is important to make the proper preparations before you start. First and foremost, make sure you are hydrated properly. Exercise performance decreases with just a 1 percent loss of body fluid. Going into a workout dehydrated causes exhaustion and inhibits performance. As the percent of water loss increases, the severity of symptoms increases and time to exhaustion decreases. Water is necessary for a number of bodily functions, including the regulation of your body temperature. Make it a point to stay hydrated before you head out for your next training bout. In addition to the 8-10 cups of water per day we should all be drinking, one should drink 2 cups of water within an hour before exercising, consume 4-8 ounces of fluid every 10-15 minutes during the workout, and consume 2 cups of fluid for every .5 kilogram lost during exercise at the conclusion of the workout
Food for Fuel
Not only is hydration important, but eating properly before your workouts is central to a good workout. There is a long-standing debate about whether it’s best to perform aerobic exercise before or after eating. Although fasted cardio can help tap into fat stores, this doesn’t necessarily translate into the best or most intense workout. If you think about it, the body’s main source of energy is carbohydrate, which it can use during high-intensity exercise because it requires less oxygen to metabolize.
Carbs are quickly digested and absorbed into the muscles via the bloodstream. This provides the muscles with energy, which allows you to train harder, faster and longer. Fruits and liquid carbohydrate solutions (juices) are both good options that can allow you to go into a workout feeling fueled, but not overly full.
The next question to answer is how much fuel you need and how soon before a workout you should consume it. This will be different for every person. Some people can eat right before exercising, while others need more time to digest their food. And how much food you need will depend on the duration and intensity of your workout. Anyone who has exercised for a long time can tell you that there is a trial and error period of time until you can figure out for yourself just how much to eat, exactly which foods work for you and how long before exercise to stop eating.
Vitamin D Benefits
One of the great benefits of outdoor exercising in the summer is that sunshine is the primary source of Vitamin D. Even in the more northern latitudes, where in the winter vitamin D is impossible to get from the sun, in the summer, it is abundant.
In recent years, numerous studies have shown that having adequate amounts of Vitamin D in our bodies prevents many cancers, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, asthma in children and diabetes. In fact, the latest research seems to connect low levels of Vitamin D with a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
Research in the area of Vitamin D is ongoing, and continues to looks very, very promising as a tool in the prevention of numerous ailments and diseases. Although the final verdicts are not yet in, D may also play and important role preventing rheumatoid arthritis, infectious diseases such as the flu and perhaps mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. A little sunshine can go a long, long way. 20 minutes per day without sunscreen 4 days a week from 9:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon should do the trick. More than 20 minutes in the peak heat of the day is not advised.
The Best Reason of All
A February 2011 study found that outdoor workouts showed an improvement in mental well-being, compared with exercising indoors. Exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.
Caution in the Sun
Because the weather is now warmer, take caution to start early in the day or do your walking or jogging toward the evening hours. Drink plenty of water before, after and during your walk. Wear clothing that is lose-fitting, but covers much of your body on sunny days. Make sure to wear a hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun and also to retain water. Most water escapes through the head. Sunglasses are good protection for your eyes.
Being able to exercise when it is safer and the effect of the sun is minimal may mean changing your schedule around. Personally, I get up earlier in order to get my aerobic session in. If it is evening you prefer, adjust your schedule accordingly. You might want to eat supper a little earlier and exercise later, or do the opposite—do your routine when you arrive home, and then have supper. Exercising outdoors has so many benefits so give it a try at least a few days a week. Making the proper adjustments in order to workout outdoors will “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.