Thursday, July 15, 2021

Summer Fitness Options Aplenty ... and how to choose which to do

The heat is on; on the street. Can you feel it?

Trust me, I am NOT complaining (after all, I wait nine months for summer to return to Iowa every year). The heat does make it a bit more of a challenge to enjoy the great outdoors, though.

I make it a priority to take most of my cardio workouts outdoors. Even when the mercury is off the charts, and it's hotter than Hades, I usually shun the inside option. I figure if I'm going to be sweating anyways, I might as well enjoy the scenery.

That said, the extreme heat of summer is nothing take lightly or ignore. It commands all of your respect and every last ounce of common sense.

It's no secret that when it comes to fitness, my first love is running. First and foremost. I don't run every day, nor do I run especially far every time I lace up my Brooks Adrenalines. I simply enjoy the mere act of running...the sound of my feet striking the pavement, the feel of sweat running down my back (and often in my eyes), and I love the sensation of endorphins washing over me after I've finished.

The summer weather in Iowa, as with any season, is always variable and tricky. Granted, more summer runs are going to be in hot temps than cold, but there are sporadic cold fronts that come through and knock out the humidity for a few brief periods. No doubt the toughest thing for most runners to deal with in the summer isn't the heat, but the humidity. A heavy dew point will make it more difficult to breathe, especially the faster one tries to run. Even if you're wearing tech fabric running gear, if it's super humid, it will take longer than normal for the dampness to evaporate from the fabric.

Five reminders for summer running:
***Everyone has their own barometer when it comes to heat tolerance. What feels warm and comfortable to me may feel extremely unbearable to someone else.

***Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate some more. Many people don't realize their bodies are dehydrated until it's too late (runners especially LOL). Water and electrolytes are necessities.

***It's in your best interest to run slower than what you may be used to doing. The odds are good your body will want do that naturally, so let it. Save your tempo runs or speedwork for less extreme temps.

***It may also be a good idea to keep the runs short (or shorter than you would in cooler temps).

***Even if you're not a natural early-riser, the heat will usually be coolest before the sun emerges. If you're hoping to run a long distance, starting your run as early as possible (even in the dark) may be something to consider.

hydration is crucial

What about walking? Did you know walking offers very similar benefits as running does? Depending on your pace, the cardio burn can be comparable to running (though running obviously has more "bang for the buck" due to the extra effort required).

Five few things to consider with summer walking:
***Don't let anyone "shame" you for choosing to walk instead of running. Walking is a legit cardio exercise, and it works your muscles differently than does running.
***Since it's a lower impact activity, the need for warm-up/cool-down isn't as crucial. It's still a good idea to do some pre/post stretching, though.

***You can get a good sweat going, but you probably won't be as "warm" as you would be if you were running the same distance. Often times, I need arm sleeves or a light jacket (that I can take off and tie around my waist) if it's a cool morning or the humidity is low.

***If it's an especially hot day, and you still want to get outside, a walk may be a better option than running since it's not as strenuous.

***It's much easier to pay attention to your surroundings (like architecture, art or landscaping) since you're not moving as fast.

walking before sun-up is a great option (and you can wear a "running" shirt when you do so)

In recent years, I have been biking more (a lot more LOL). I'm still pretty much a novice, but it's been a fun new fitness option to explore.  Most are familiar with my mountain bike, affectionately named Gustavas. He's not as sleek or road-friendly as a road bike would be, but that adds an element of challenge to my rides. The bike weighs more, and the tires are rugged. Climbing hills can be tough...but that's all good. I'm working different muscles (well, hello there, quads!) and giving my usual running muscles some down time. I also recently added a hybrid bike to the family (his name is Fritz), so I have another option for long rides (and a better option for hilly rides).

Also, with biking, there's ZERO impact on my knees and ankles, so most rides feel pretty smooth (unless I hit a pothole or cross railroad tracks). Since a lot of my riding is just in town, I'm not cycling especially fast or with a lot of effort, making it a great option if I want to get out of the house but don't have a lot of energy on tap. None the less, cardio is still happening and my legs are getting some action.

Five things about biking in the summer:
***The hot temps are MUCH more bearable on a bike than on foot! Again, I think it's that "less effort required" thing.

***Even if it's a warm day, I usually feel cooler on the bike. That's all well and good on a really hot day, but on the moderate mornings, I usually feel most comfortable with arm sleeves.

***No matter which direction the wind is coming from, it always feels like it's in my face. That's not all bad, though, because it does feel refreshing (most of the time).

***A strong headwind is much tougher to fight on a bike than on foot...just saying. A side wind can be tricky, too.

***Gravity will work both with you AND against you on a hill LOL

don't forget your helmet, or your lipstick

Anyways, those are some comparisons and contrasts to three outdoor cardio options that I have utilize, even in the extreme heat of summer. What can I say? I'd rather be outside this time of year...I can do the inside hibernation gig in the winter.

Your thoughts?
Does the heat of summer keep you inside? Do you alter your fitness routine when the temps get warm?

 I'm  linking this with MichelleReneeDarleneJenn and Zenaida for the Fit Five Friday Link-up.

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  1. It can definitely be challenging to run in the summer heat! Last year I did so much walking, which usually happened in the middle of the day or in the afternoon. It can be nice to slow down and walking is great for us too. While its a bit cooler before the sun comes up, I think the humidity is usually worse, so it feels deceivingly hard.

    1. I agree...the humidity doesn't cut us too many breaks! I don't "feel" the humidity much in the early hours, but once I stop running (and step inside), I'm a sweaty mess.

  2. I LOVE summer.

    But running can be a challenge.

    I love to walk and admire all the flowers.

    Hiking is my favorite - always cooler in the woods.

    Biking is also an option. My neighborhood is boring and so far Ive had no time to drive somewhere fun.

    1. I love seeing all the pics from your hikes! You're lucky to have so many options for trails!!

  3. running in the summer is always a challenge for me! I am taking it for what it is this year and sticking through it with lots of walk breaks. Hydration has been really key this summer as well

    1. You have done well this summer! Your "taking it for what it is" describes my attitude for winter running...I suck it up and deal with it, but it's definitely NOT my cup of tea.

  4. Kim, you are a perfect candidate for living in Florida! Maybe you should consider it for your retirement. Since it's usually warm/extremely hot here, we just accept the heat and work with it. I will say that I'm one of those people with a high heat tolerance- my husband struggles with it more than I do. His rule is to never be running any later than 8 am in the hotter months.

    1. The hubs and I are considering "wintering" in Florida, actually. Just working on some of the logistics and details with our jobs. Like you, I have a pretty high tolerance of heat as well, and I'm ever grateful because I love being outside.

  5. Sometimes the heat keeps me inside, sometimes it doesn't. It's the rare day I don't get some sort of activity outside though.

    Swimming is another fav of mine, obviously, and I love my outdoor Yoga too!

    1. I thought about mentioning swimming in this post...but I'm not a swimmer, so I wouldn't have any first-hand knowledge to share.

  6. I'm determined to make this a "no treadmill" summer because I want to be outside every minute that I can. I started walking a lot more in the pandemic than I did before and I feel like that really complements the running. I can only imagine what adding in biking would bring to the mix.

    1. Isn't walking great? I really look forward to my walks, though the biking is sort of dominating my non-running time right now...

  7. Great post Kim!

    I've been able to take my runs outside so far this summer, and definitely embrace a walking. On the extreme days, I've been happy to have my Peloton bike :)

    1. You have been a beast on the Peloton! Great job hitting the streets, even in the heat ;-)

  8. I agree with all the five reminders of summer running. Getting older I find always tougher running in summer. This is the 3rd year in a row that I had to stop my workouts for some days because of a terrible weakness. So, as you say, I run slower and I keep the runs shorter; moreover I made the decision not to race until the heat has gone.
    Good solution is also walking when the body doesn't want to run!

  9. I'm a runner first and foremost but I'll gladly walk or bike if it's too hot. Even with biking you need to be careful with the heat as it can kind of sneak up on you!

    We don't generally wear helmets here though unless you are on a race bike or a super fast electric bike. We have a fabulous infrastructure for biking and while accidents can happen they don't happen that often. Today I rode on one of the many "Bicycle Highways" and it was amazing just ride through without stoplights or cars or crossing of any kind! I'll try to remember my lipstick next time ;)

  10. We keep keeping on here. It's hot, humid and miserable, and so we just adjust. Biking isn't super fun because it's too hot to have a helmet on. Blah. But I do home workouts and I walk every day I don't run.