Karl Henry: How to motivate yourself to stay healthy in the heat
From poolside holidays to beer gardens and barbeques, it can be tempting to give in to all the food, cocktails and lounging about in the summertime, especially during a heatwave like we're experiencing now.
In today's column, I want to help you stay healthy as the temperatures continue to soar. When you're on holiday abroad or even at home when it's as hot outside as it has been in recent weeks, it can be so easy to lose count of what you're eating, stop exercising and develop unhealthy habits.
Stepping out into the sunny, sticky weather in Lycra sportswear doesn't sound appealing, but in today's column I want to look at how you can motivate yourself to exercise in the heat - and safely, too.
A couple of weeks ago, I did a bike race, the Leinster Loop, on what was one of the hottest days of the year. Even with a good nutrition strategy, I still suffered some of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness and muscle cramps because it was just so warm.
Those are some of the symptoms to look out for, and if you feel any of the above it is recommended you stop the exercise and cool down.
So what should you do to make sure you stay on track with your fitness routine in the heat? Let's take a look...
Time of day
Exercising during the middle part of the day is not advised unless you have acclimatised to it or are doing a race like I was. During a heatwave, the HSE advises staying out of the sun between 11am and 3pm. It is so much better to train either earlier or later in the day, where it's cooler and you are less exposed to the heat of the sun. Personally, I always train around 5pm when on holiday - it means you miss the strongest sun and work up a good appetite for dinner too.
Your body cools off by sweating, which is why it's so important to ensure you are hydrating. Common signs of dehydration are thirst, a salty taste in your mouth, hunger, low mood and poor concentration. A good way to check if you're hydrated properly is the colour of your urine. Ideally your urine should be clear. You will notice your urine in the morning is always very yellow as you're dehydrated after sleep, and then becomes clear during the day as you drink more. Aim for between two and three litres per day and if you need a bit of flavour, add cucumber, mint or lemons rather than flavoured bottled water.
I'm not a fashion guru but when it comes to your training gear, it's crucial to ensure you get it right. Wear bright colours (dark colours absorb heat), loose clothes and also breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics that will help you deal with sweat. Cotton is to be avoided - instead go for the Lycra/synthetic-based fabrics that will allow your skin to breathe and cool the body down. All sportswear companies have some version of a cooling system built into the clothes so when it's warm, it's time to test it out.
After your session
The session is important, but your recovery after the session is super important too. A piece of fruit such as a banana is a perfect way to help the body recover, followed by some cold water and then a meal one or two hours later.
Remember to be even more careful with regard to alcohol and exercise during a heatwave or while you're away, as alcohol will always dehydrate the body, which is a problem anyway, but especially in the heat.
My best tip is to listen to your body - know the symptoms of heat exhaustion, be able to recognise them, build your session around the cooler times of the day, keep an eye on your hydration and ensure you are getting enough fluid in.
If you don't feel like exercising, it can often be your body telling you something, so don't be afraid to listen to it.
Subscribe to The Real Health podcast with Karl Henry on iTunes and Soundcloud and get no nonsense advice about being fit and healthy every day. For more information, visit independent.ie/podcasts. For any health and fitness questions, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Karl on Twitter @karlhenrypt.