Combat dehydration, sunburn, and other lesser-known (but easily avoidable!) exercise problems before they have a chance to hinder your performance
Right now, you’re probably dreaming of hot, steamy summer runs when you can head out the door clad in shorts and a sports bra. The problem: The heat of summer puts added stress on your body. “Don't expect to run the same ‘fast’ times in 80 to 100 degree temperatues—your rate of perceived exertion will be significantly higher,” warns Marni Sumbal, R.D., owner of TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition. (Find out How Heat Affects Your Workout and Your Heart.)
Plus, the sheer nature of being in the sun sets you up for non-performance related issues like skin problems. But you don’t need to stay in the gym all summer long! Just be aware of these dangers and avoid ‘em with our expert advice. Now, get out there and enjoy the warm weather we earned this winter.
Slather on the SPF, but beware: There is no such thing as completely waterproof/sweat-proof sunblock. “Sweat and waterproof versions may ‘stick’ better in between applications though,” says Francesca Fusco, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. She recommends a sweat-resistant, broad spectrum SPF 30 minutes before heading out. “Don’t forget often missed areas like tops of ears, lips, and scalp—a balm like ChopSaver works for the latter two,” says Fusco. Also smart: a hat, sunglasses, and UPF clothing, like Under Armour’s Coldblack Run Tank ($40; roadrunnersports.com). (For more recs, see 20 Sun Products to Help Protect Your Skin.)
While the dreadmill may be not-so-ideal in every other way, it’s actually not so bad when it comes to joint damage. The belt offers a softer, springier surface, which is less hard on your joints than pavement, says Sumbal. So, it’s particularly important to stick to the golden running rule when transitioning from ‘mill to road: Don’t increase your mileage by more than 10 percent each week. If you took the winter off from running, start with an easy one- or two-miler, then work back up to your longer runs. (Watch out for 5 Beginner Running Injuries.)
You know how experts are always telling you to get out of your sweaty gym clothes stat (do not go to brunch, do not pass Go!)? Well, they’re right—“down-there” bacteria thrives in warm, moist environments. So sitting around in your sweaty gear is like asking for a yeast infection. Naturally, you’re even sweatier in the summer, so if you can’t shower right away, bring a change of undies and shorts, advises Fusco.
“I recommend that all athletes use a sport drink which includes 25 to 50 grams (g) carbs, 200 to 400 milligrams (mg) sodium, and 50 to 100mg potassium rather than plain water—especially in the heat and for workouts over 60 minutes,” says Sumbal. Try Clif Shot Electrolyte Hydration Mix ($35; clifbarstore.com). “For shorter workouts, bring along a bottle of 16 ounces water with 120 to 180mg sodium and sip every 10 minutes,” Sumbal suggests. (Your Brain on: Dehydration.)
Painful cramping or spasms in your calves, thighs, and shoulders can be brought on by electrolyte imbalance and the sheer nature of exercising in the heat. Immediately stop and stretch if you’re suffering. Drink a sports drink, and try again once the pain passes, says Sumbal. “It's important that athletes stay up on hydration, but also learn how to pace appropriately in the heat—as the temps rise, typically pace and effort need to decrease,” says Sumbal.
Just as the treadmill is less damaging on your joints than the pavement, it’s also easier on your kicks. Don’t forget to replace your running shoes every 300 miles. (We'd recommend one of The Best Sneakers to Crush Your Workout Routines.) And know this: Your feet naturally swell while you’re running, but this is even more of an issue when it’s hot outside. Consider buying sneaks a half-size bigger than your normal shoe size in the summer if you notice a little less room.
These guys love moist, warm environments—like the inside of your sneaks on a summer run or ride. Your solution: “Wear dry, wicking socks—like Stance Burst Tab socks ($15; stance.com)—and use foot cream post-workout to make sure feet have time to breath and get some air post-workout,” says Sumbal. She also recommends trying on different socks and buying multiple pairs of the one you love most. Another trick: “BandAid sells a product called Friction Block ($6; drugstore.com), which looks like a waxy stick" and can help stop rubbing, adds Fusco.
Yep, soaking in the rays puts you at risk for cold sores. That's because UV rays from the sun can lead to skin damage—and that's what triggers the cold sore outbreak. “I recommend frequent application of SPF to lips frequently to those who get cold sores,” says Fusco.
Even if you’re not normally the type to work so hard that you feel nauseous, the heat could make you that type. Look for shady routes and don’t work out in the middle of the day, suggests Sumbal. “I always encourage people to eat as tolerated—ideally, this would be within an hour after your workout, but often times the gut is not ready for solid food, so start with an electrolyte beverage or fruit until your stomach starts to feel normal again."
It’s more likely you’ll come down with a head pounder during or after a hot workout than a cold one. That’s largely due to dehydration—so reach for the H2O rather than the ibuprofen. Taking Advil before or during a workout could lead to more serious problems, like gastro issues, cramps, and (counter-intuitively!) headaches. This is because ibuprofen and exercise can both damage the lining of your gastrointestinal tract. Though exercise only does so in the short-term, the double whammy is what could potentially cause these issues. (Check out 8 Natural Remedies for Coughs, Headaches, and More.)
“Sweating doesn't cause acne, but I definitely see a rise in acne during summer months that seems attributable to the layering of sunscreen, makeup, primer, and moisturizer,” says Fusco. “I recommend finding a non-comedogenic hydrating sunscreen, like Philosophy Hope Oil free SPF 30 ($30; sephora.com), and skipping primer, powder, and other makeup before a workout.”