You probably already know that exercising in hot weather puts extra stress on the body. And since your body cools down as sweat evaporates off your skin—but it can’t evaporate as well in humid conditions—your body produces more sweat when humidity levels are high and you lose more fluids, says Jenn Gibson, RD, a sport dietitian with the U.S. Olympic Committee. The good news is that you’ll also burn more calories (as you would in extreme cold temps), says Gibson.
A hot summer run won’t just affect you physically, either; “It can absolutely affect your attitude—which is directly linked to your physical performance,” says Karen Cogan, PhD, a sport psychologist with the U.S. Olympic Committee. Here, four ways to stay physically and mentally cool on the run—no matter how hot it gets.
Cool down before your workout
Olympic athletes actually wear special cooling vests before training in hot and steamy conditions, which helps to lower their risk for overheating. But you don’t have to go to that extreme to get a similar effect, says Gibson. Fifteen to 20 minutes before your run, take a quick rinse in the shower under cold water, or simply rinse your hands in cool water immediately before heading out the door. Alternatively, you could whip up a DIY slushy by blending ice (either on its own or combined with a bit of a sports drink) and drink it before heading out.
Ideally, you should start hydrating one hour before you hit the road, says Gibson. The key is to not just chug a bunch of liquid at once, but to allow it to slowly absorb into your system. That means taking small, frequent sips—not gulping down a cup of water right before you lace up. And keep drinking while you’re out there—you need more fluid in the heat since you lose more of it through your sweat, says Gibson. Everyone’s fluid intake needs are different, but it’s easy to figure out what yours are: Weigh yourself before and after your next run. If you lose more than two percent of your body weight, bump up your fluid intake by ½ cup during your next workout. Continue to increase it by ½ cup until you lose less than two percent of your body weight, says Gibson. Or keep things simple and do the urine test—if it’s a really concentrated (think apple juice-like) yellow, you’re dehydrated. Increase your mid-workout water intake in ½-cup increments until your post-run color is closer to a pale yellow.
What you eat before, during, and after your workout is one thing that shouldn’t change much, says Gibson. But your body does chew through more carbs on a sweaty run than it would on a cooler day. A sports drink can help you maintain your energy levels and replace electrolytes lost through sweating. “Normally, I’d recommend sipping a sports drink (or a 1:1 solution of sports drink to water) only during runs lasting 60-plus minutes,” says Gibson. “But since the heat puts more stress on your body, it’s smart to do this for shorter runs in these temps too.”
Think cool thoughts
Imagine that you’re in another, much colder, location (think: a mountain resort in the winter). Use mental imagery and really imagine the environment and think about how the cool, crisp air feels against your skin. “Your mind is super powerful, and you can use it to convince your body to feel a certain way or do a certain thing,” says Cogan. “Talking yourself into feeling cooler isn’t going to change the fact that your body is hot and must work to cool down, but it can make you feel less uncomfortable and more motivated to keep running.”
Give it a positive spin
Replace thoughts like “Ugh, I hate the heat” with more positive affirmations such as “The heat is just part of the experience—the good part is that it’s working my muscles even harder than normal.” “Find some way to make it a positive for yourself, even if you don’t totally buy it,” says Cogan. This is one case where “fake it until you make it” definitely applies. via WomensHealth