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Sunday 20 April 2014

Summer-proof your workout

When temperatures increase, staying safe in the heat is essential, says Karl Henry

Go for Dri-Fit fabrics that are designed to keep you cool and comfortable when exercising in hot weather

The past few weeks have largely been some of the best we've had in years in terms of weather. Long, bright days and warmth that almost makes you want to go out, exercise and get fit. One of my favourite things is running or cycling in glorious weather, absorbing all the Vitamin D and coming back feeling fantastic.

Seeing some of the burnt bodies over the past few days got me thinking. Here's the low down on how to keep your body safe when out exercising in the heat:

Sunscreen

If you plan to be out exercising for any time at all in the sun, I would certainly recommend getting some sunscreen and just putting even a little bit on. P20 is one of my favourites, as it dries quickly and there are no streaks. But there are plenty of other brands out there that cater to athletes and tend to last quite well, even if you are pushing your body quite hard and sweating a lot.

This is especially important for water sports, as you won't feel that hot but will be seriously sunburnt if you don't get the sunscreen on in time. Sunburn can be dangerous and it is so easy to avoid. You would be crazy not to put even just a small amount of cream on.

Clothing

While it may seem like the best option, going out for a run in a sleeveless top or vest top can expose some of the whitest parts of your body to the sun, and these can be the areas that burn the quickest.

If you don't have lots of SPF on, you should certainly stick with a T-shirt.

Ideally, you should aim for light-coloured clothing and non-cotton fabrics that won't hold the heat.

Cotton fabrics are the worst to train in as they get damp and heavy and can lead to chafing.

Personally, I would go for Dri-Fit fabrics that are designed to keep you cool and comfortable when exercising in hot weather. Brands such as Asics, Columbia, Nike and Underarmour all have great training gear that will be perfect for summer.

Electrolytes

When you run or exercise in the heat, you are pumping out sweat that contains salt. Salt is crucial for many body functions, so it is important to replace the salt lost during anything over an hour of hard endurance exercise.

I would certainly recommend getting salt or electrolyte replacement tablets that you can pop into your sports bottle.

Diarolyte is fantastic, too. There is a relatively new blackcurrant flavour that I would recommend as it tastes really good. If you are training for a marathon or triathlon, you may need to take a sachet during your run, especially if you are doing your training in warm weather.

Sunglasses

These are not just a fashion accessory – they are a definite must when exercising in the sun, especially when it is blinding and you risk tripping or falling.

Sunglasses will block the sun's glare and enable you to see where you are going, and they will also help to keep grit and dirt out of your eyes, especially if it is a hot and windy day and you are exercising somewhere that is sandy or dusty.

There are lots of different brands on the market. The most important thing to remember is to ensure that the glasses cover as much of the eye and surrounding area as possible.

Water

Water is essential for any sessions over an hour or for runs in the heat, as you will be sweating a hell of a lot more.

On a warm day, generally 500mls should keep you well hydrated, but don't forget that drinking too much water can be dangerous. Having made that mistake many years ago when competing in my first Ironman Triathlon, I now know that too much water will dilute your body's salt content and decrease its ability to function.

So don't overdo it – keep a bottle with you and sip during your session as opposed to drinking a lot at one time. For long sessions a Camelbak may be helpful, or you can bring some money with you so you can buy water along the way.

Running in the heat can also increase the chance of getting blisters as your feet will generally sweat more. Blisters can make your training seriously uncomfortable, and it's essential to deal with them as soon as possible. Vaseline and Compeed footcare treatments will generally do the trick.

Before your session, simply apply some Vaseline to places that you normally have blisters and this will help to avoid chafing. When a blister appears, get a Compeed plaster on it straightaway. This will form a seal around the area and stop any further pain.

There are also fantastic sponge-like plasters that simply fit over the toe or other problem area. I used these recently and found them to work really well.

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