by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
They don’t call them lazy, hazy days of summer without cause. Revive yourself in a season that celebrates the low-key …
With bright days and pleasant weather, most don’t feel summer requires much further motivation. Yet, just as winter’s bitter frost chills us to the bone, summer’s heat can melt our best intentions to be active.
It’s Early Days
Officially, summer begins today. Most vacations remain in the future; the school year is only recently finished; the car is still void of sand, stray sunglasses, and other telltale signs of the season. Remind yourself though: Summer is only 10 weeks long.
Set goals and priorities before the clock renders you out of time. Appearances are deceptive. Days may seem longer, but contain the same hours they did in December. Remember all the holiday shopping, baking, and year-end missions accomplished back when it was dark at dinnertime. Don’t be caught off guard. It may be later than the sunny sky indicates.
Heat seems to exude lackadaisical behavior. On a hot August day, a casual walk to the mailbox can cause a sweat. Thick, humid air can leave you feeling breathless, even without the cardio work.
Take advantage of the warmth. Create a stretching program. Summer conditions are ideal for working on flexibility. Elevated body and air temps make flexibility more possible. Cold muscles are stiff; if not treated gently, they can be more easily strained.
Warmth allows a deeper stretch. Muscles are looser without having to shield you from the cold. Add yoga elements to the routine for some meditation with your stretches. By summer’s end, you probably won’t want to give up this relaxing addition to your day. Stiff is for dress shirts.
A Quick Stretch: Feel like a yogi, even if you’re Mr. Uptight.
Sit with one leg crossed over the opposite thigh. Bend forward with your arms outstretched, fingers on the floor. Keep tailbone planted on the floor. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and switch legs. (Maybe someday you can touch your forehead to the floor while doing this. Or not.)
Done properly, many seasonal chores can be a mini workout. Explore opportunities for everyday fitness. Wash the car, mow the lawn, garden. Use the hose to keep cool if you don’t have access to a pool. A personal trainer can suggest ways to accomplish these tasks that are safe and productive in your fitness endeavors. Done correctly, every day activities can strengthen rather than be a risk for strains. (See “When Chores Hurt” at F&W News, May 30, 2012.)
Keep Your Cool
Hotter temperatures require your body to work harder. If you enjoy passing the summer by cycling, jogging, and playing ball, monitor your heart rate. Outdoor activities are invigorating and enhance your formal workout. Avoid the dangers of playing in the blazing sun. Excessive heat can lead to serious medical conditions, including heat stroke and heart failure. One bad incident and your fitness efforts may be derailed until the leaves turn colors.
Heart Check: If you don’t have a heart-rate monitor, monitor your ability to talk. A challenging workout should allow a quick breath every three to six words.
Cool off first. A recent study suggested cooling off before a workout improved performance in the heat. Try a cold shower or simply cool your head and neck area with an ice pack or ice water. This lowers your heart rate and your body temperature, both core and skin surface. For a longer-lasting cool, soak a bandana in cold water and wear it around your neck during outdoor activity.
Follow up by rubbing a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil on your ears, neck, and temples. This provides soothing coolness and clears sinuses for easier breathing.
Today’s meteorologists can accurately predict hourly weather forecasts. A quick click can tell you the hottest hours of the day. Plan your outdoor activity accordingly. If you expect to work out later in the day, lazing in the sun all afternoon probably won’t help get you there. Cool off to get yourself psyched to sweat. (That suggested cold shower can be motivating!)
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and insect repellant when spending time outdoors. Physical exertion when outdoors, including strenuous exercise, attracts mosquitoes. Body odor, fragrance, skin temperature, and carbon dioxide production are an aphrodisiac to these pests.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 90 percent of melanomas, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, are caused by exposure to sunlight. Yet still, almost half of Americans don’t wear sunscreen.
You pride yourself on a healthy lifestyle—feeding and exercising your body well. Protect your largest organ. Sunburn hurts immediately and in the long-term. Sunscreen is a hot topic right now. Advice on type, SPF level, and usage is currently being scrutinized. Follow the updates for the latest directions.
Cool & Comfortable
There aren’t any excuses at the Center. The conditions are always perfect for a workout. Break into a sweat for better reasons than high humidity. Rejuvenate yourself — whether from a sticky day outside or an over-chilled office where a sweater was necessary. Clear your mind and prepare for your next summer moment. Enjoy a sting-free fitness experience without bugs, sunburns, or the siren song of Mr. Softee.
Revisit your fitness goals. By now, last year’s swimsuit either does or does not still fit. Regardless, it’s time for your next goal. If you and your family thrive on water play, join the Center’s Family Swim sessions or take swim lessons. The Center pools conveniently eliminate the weather worries of outdoor community pools. Unlike wintertime, there isn’t need to thoroughly dry before returning to the rest of your day. Roll down your car window and let the warm breeze style your damp hair. (Some have more luck with this than others.)
Try a new Group Fitness class. The exotic rhythm of a Zumba class can transport you to The Islands, even if your wallet cannot. Personal training sessions can prepare you for hauling around summer gear, whether surfboards or a cooler of drinks. (You can’t get six-pack abs from transporting six-packs. Be proactive in beer-gut prevention!) A successful Pilates routine can help prevent injuries, in case you actually put that surfboard to use.
Fall brings fitness events, everything from volleyball tournaments to marathons. Find one that appeals to you and register now. A challenge at summer’s end can propel your fitness efforts all season. As if you didn’t have a thousand reasons for jumping out of that chaise lounge, here’s one for your health! Find a fundraiser that is close to your heart. You’ll go even further. Invite a friend or spouse to join you.
It is boring to continuously hear about hydration. Yet, it must be emphasized. Regardless of sun or shade, indoors or outdoors, we need to replace lost fluids and sodium. Increased perspiration requires increased water intake. Replenish with a sports drink if excessive. In hot months, we need to be especially diligent about replacing fluids lost through heat exposure. This loss is compounded during exercise.
Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, along with other sources for replenishing like fruit and veggies. Grapes, watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe are approximately 80 percent water. Eat away your thirst and boost your energy. For more on hydration, check out “Stay Hydrated Despite the Heat,” F&W News, August 3, 2011.
If you suspect you’ve become dehydrated, the Center’s nurse can check your vital signs and assist you in rehydrating.
A Summer Reality
You needn’t search the boardwalks for the latest thrill ride to have summer flash before your eyes. It goes fast on its own. Move to make it count. Prioritize healthy fun. Strive for a slower pace, but one that still lets you wear your skinny jeans in the fall.
Summers are only sprints in life’s marathon. Make the pace of your days fast enough to burn off those smoothies and slow enough to enjoy the sunsets.
“Have an Active Summer,” by Catherine Holecko at www.about.com.
“Love Your Summer Workout: 10 Motivation Tricks,” by Hallie Levine Sklar at www.fitnessmagazine.com.
Pool floating: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25960000@N05/2591197047/
Sunset drink: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdickter/152843093/
Workout cool-off: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27630470@N03/4809433084/
Sunscreen face: http://www.flickr.com/photos/activesteve/5203319976/