ESCANABA - After being cramped inside for months while snow piled up on walks and trails, we all looked forward to the summer months when exercise is free and easy.
If you're a runner, walker or cyclist, you can be out the door in a flash wearing only shorts, a T-shirt and a cap to protect your head from the sun. Committed runners, walkers and cyclists do not give up when the temperatures soar to 90 degrees and above. But they may have to change their workout schedules to early mornings or evenings, when the heat has moderated a bit.
Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin; they will make you feel cooler. Protect your skin with sun screen and wear a lightweight cap that will protect both your head and your eyes. The first workout on a hot day is always a bit difficult; you simply can't go as fast or as far with the same amount of effort. It's important to take it easy until you acclimate yourself to the higher temperatures. And always make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
For a change of pace or for those who are not as committed to the traditional options, there are other summer workouts that can keep you fit.
SWIMMING, whether at a lake or pool, is an obvious choice to cool off on a hot day while challenging the cardiovascular system. Swim laps in a pool or, if you're a good swimmer, swim across the lake.
If you're not, treading water will give you cardiovascular endurance. Tread just with the arms, just with the legs and then with both the arms and legs.
Get a floatie, hold it under your arms and do flutter kicks while staying afloat. You'll be developing quad and hamstring muscles.
BEACH FUN: Spending your vacation at the beach with your family? It's fun and relaxing to sun bathe and build sand castles with your kids. But you also have an ideal environment for working out: a surface of soft or firm sand gives your leg muscles a challenge, while a cool breeze and our nearby lakes offer a quick and complete cool down.
Running in soft sand forces you to work harder, promoting good knee lift and building strong hip flexors, quads, calves and ankles. In fact, all leg, arm and core muscles benefit from the effort, and it uses at least 1.5 times more calories.
Low tide leaves a firmer, but still relatively low-impact surface that runners and walkers welcome. To compensate for a slanted surface, make sure each workout includes equal distance in each direction. Running on a slant puts extra pressure on knees and hips.
You'll probably enjoy running barefoot in the sand, and it's generally good for your feet and your posture. To avoid injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis, take it easy at first with barefoot walking or running. Start with 15 minutes and build gradually from there. Play around with different workouts: run out into the water for 50 yards or so and then back. Or try the zig zag: jog and run on firm sand for 10 minutes, then run into the soft sand and run hard for a minute before heading back to the firm surface for a slow recovery. Repeat five to 10 times.
Beach circuits are another option. Do
- 10 walking lunges plus 10 situps,
- 10 walking lunges plus 10 pushups,
- 10 deep squats plus 10 situps,
- 10 deep squats plus 10 pushups.
Complete the circuit, rest for a minute and then repeat as often as you wish (and are able).
Or try jumps and drops. Run 30 yards or so through soft sand and do a long jump, starting and landing on both feet. Drop all the way down and then push back off the sand and jump to your feet.
CANOEING, KAYAKING: If a canoe or kayak is in your vacation plans, your goal is probably pleasure. But you'll also be getting good exercise that benefits aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility. Paddling builds muscle strength in the back, arms, shoulders and chest. But the canoe or kayak is powered through the water mainly through rotating your torso and applying pressure with your legs. All of this is low impact, however, with minimal wear and tear on joints. And, depending on your goals, you can also get a peaceful, meditative experience and appreciation of the natural environment.
STAY HYDRATED: As the mercury rises, heat exhaustion becomes a real concern. Symptoms include general fatigue, dizziness, nausea, an increase in body temperature, weakness and muscle cramps. Getting plenty of fluids the right fluids is key to avoiding serious problems. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 16-20 ounces of water two hours before moderate-intensity summer exercise; 8-12 ounces of water 10-15 minutes before going out in the heat; and 3-8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes during activity when active for less than 60 minutes or 3-8 ounces of a sports beverage every 15-20 minutes when exercising greater than 60 minutes. You'll know you're getting enough fluid by the color of your urine, which should be the color of lemonade or lighter.
Ideally, you should also avoid exercising during the hottest times of the day. On particularly warm days, start slower and pace yourself. If you don't feel well, take the intensity down or take a break, preferably in a cooler area. Wear lightweight, breathable clothing in light colors and don't forget sunscreen.
When either the temperature or humidity approaches 100, a red flag is raised. Respect the weather and accept your own limitations.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Deryck Korhonen is a certified physician assistant with OSF Medical Group. He sees patients in at the OSF Medical Group practice in Powers.