Summer Exercise: Cool Options
In summer, the song sings itself, wrote poet William Carlos Williams. But does the bike cycle itself? Does the race run itself?
After being cramped inside for months while snow is piling up on the walks and trails, we all look 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, T-shirt or singlet and a cap to protect your head from the sun. And you can look forward to a full schedule of 10K races, biathlons, marathons and half marathons to test your competitive spirit.
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.
For your shorts and top, 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.
A shady, wooded trail or a breezy shoreline is a better choice for a run than a sun-drenched city sidewalk.
Beware of First Hot Day
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, to protect yourself from dehydration and over-heating, 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 that will give you a lift when you go back to your regular workouts.
WATER AER0BICS is a popular workout. In warm water, it’s a good way for older persons to soothe stiff, aching joints. In the heat of summer, anyone can welcome the cool water of an indoor or outdoor pool while working out. There are many organized classes available, but, for a short-term option, you may want to devise your own workout.
Walk and jog around the perimeter of the pool. Then in the shallow end, do walking lunges, squats and leg lifts, both to the front and side. You can get a good lower body workout using flutter kicks while holding onto a kickboard.
In the deeper end, submerged to the neck, work the upper body with chest presses, reverse flies, biceps curls and arm circles. Light hand weights can be used, but, even without them, the resistance of the water will give you a good workout.
Floating–either face down or face up–using only your arms and abdominal muscles to keep you flat and straight–is a good core body exercise.
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 to give your leg muscles a challenge, a cool breeze and a nearby lake or ocean for a quick and complete cool down.
Coaches frequently have distance runners train on the beach. 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. It’s also crucial to watch out for glass, shells and other sharp objects.
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 5 to 10 times.
Beach circuits are another option. If you have room to block off your own workout area, 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.
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.
Whatever workouts you choose, of course, you must be careful to protect yourself with proper clothing, sunscreen and plenty of water to keep you hydrated. When either the temperature or humidity approaches 100, a red flag is raised. Respect the weather and accept your own limitations.