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9 tips for walking or running in extreme heat

Staying hydrated, wearing breathable workout attire and cooling down after your workout is key to exercising safely in hot temperatures.

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For many across the country, the unrelenting heat is making it difficult to enjoy summer activities — including taking your workout outdoors.

Walking or running outside in high temperatures is not only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. That's why it's important not to push yourself too hard and know the signs of heatstroke.

And there are some simple things you can do to make that steamy outdoor walk or run a little more comfortable and help your body recover faster afterward.

TODAY fitness contributor Stephanie Mansour shared her top tips for staying safe and cool while exercising outdoors this summer.

What to do before you work out in the heat

Before you even start exercising there are things you can do that will help you beat the heat.

  • Consider your schedule. “Pay attention to when it will be sunniest and hottest during the day,” said Mansour. “You may have to shift your workout earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is starting to set.”
  • Choose your clothing wisely. “When working out, it feels warmer than when you’re at rest, so dress lighter than you may think. This is for indoor and outdoor workouts. Even if you’re working out inside, the humidity may be higher,” said Mansour. She also recommended wearing loose clothing to promote better airflow around your body and allow sweat to evaporate, and opting for breathable fabrics in light colors, which allow heat to reflect off instead of absorb.
  • What to eat and drink: “Pay attention to hydration before the workout — it’ll help you feel cooler when you start exercising,” said Mansour. “For outdoor summer workouts, I would advise to drink 8 ounces 20-30 minutes before exercising. Avoid hot workouts after eating a large meal — your body’s energy will be going towards digestion instead of towards helping cool you down.”

Tips for working out in hot temperatures

While you’re exercising in the heat, your focus should be on staying hydrated and listening to your body — and knowing when it’s time to slow down or take a break.

  • Hydrate: Aim to drink 8 ounces of cold water for every 15 minutes of exercise, advised Mansour. “Consider investing in a water bottle that keeps your water cold or knowing stops along the way where you can get a drink.”
  • Listen to your body. “Pay attention to what your body is telling you. This is less about feeling hot and sweating more than usual — that’s a given! But telltale signs that you need to rest and take a break include feeling muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness or light-headedness,” said Mansour. “You don’t have to stop, but take a break, hydrate and find some shade to cool down. Then, listen to your body. If you’re too fatigued to continue, that’s OK. But if you just need a break and are ready to continue on, go ahead.

 How to cool down after you work out in the heat

Once your workout is complete, there are things you can do to help your body cool down. Follow Mansour’s four-step cool-down routine:

  1. Stretch: Do your stretches while you’re still warm,” said Mansour. She suggested adding a cold washcloth or bandana on the back of your neck or applying ice cubes to your wrists while stretching to help bring your body temperature down.
  2. Breath: Mansour recommended practicing these two breathing techniques as you stretch: a cooling breath and a lion's breath. To perform a cooling breath: curl the sides of your tongue and breathe in and out through your mouth. To perform a lion’s breath: inhale and scrunch up your face tight, then exhale with an open mouth and your tongue sticking out.
  3. Take a cold shower to help lower your body temperature.  
  4. Enjoy a post-workout snack: “Consider a cool and nourishing post-workout snack,” said Mansour. Some of her favorites include a cold Greek yogurt with fruit, homemade coconut water and fruit popsicles (full of replenishing electrolytes), a cold protein smoothie, and a salad with cold, grilled chicken and hydrating foods like watermelon cubes or cucumber slices.