Now that we’re officially in the dog days of summer (so named because Sirius, the dog star, now rises when the sun does), it’s tempting to just sit inside with the air conditioning blasting. However, just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean that you should stop keeping up with your healthy habits. While exercising in the summer heat can be more strenuous, you don’t have to run fifteen miles per day to stay healthy.
We at Crucial like to get our exercise in by walking. Experts recommend that you get a half hour of exercise at least three times per week. You don’t even have to do it all at one time. Three sessions that are ten minutes long or two fifteen minute bursts are just as effective. So, take your dog for two walks around the block, or spend ten minutes on a treadmill at various times through the day.
While these shorter sessions are great for minimizing the time you spend out in the sun, there are other great ways to beat the summer heat. If you go for a walk, hit the pavement later in the evening after the afternoon heat has started to dissipate or in the mornings before the sun has warmed up the pavement. If you have a shopping mall in your area, you can also take a walk through there. If the mall has multiple stories, you get the added benefit of a light stair workout as well.
Of course, you can also join a gym (although this isn’t necessary to get your workout in). Larger chain gyms like Planet Fitness have a lot of equipment, so as long as you avoid the after-work rush, you’ll always find a treadmill available. Of course, as always, before you start any new exercise regime, consult your doctor.
Stretching and Limbering
You should do light stretches before and after every workout. This stretching doesn’t have to be a time consuming affair; you can spend two minutes targeting the areas that you are working. For example, when you’re walking, target your legs and lower back when you stretch. When you stretch before the workout, don’t do dynamic stretching (where you “bounce” to extend how far you can stretch). Static stretches are the best for cold muscles. Just reach until you feel the muscle resist, and then hold for a count of 20. Relax and repeat two more times. Equally important is spending a few minutes after you’ve been walking to stretch.
Stretching before your workout helps get blood flowing to your limbs and helps get them warmed up and ready for the upcoming exercise. Try these three stretches as a great starting point.
Hamstring and Lower Back: Keep your knees slightly bent (don’t lock them) and reach up with both hands, inhaling. Slowly lower your hands to the floor, bending at the waist while exhaling. Go as far as you can, and hold for twenty seconds, breathing normally.
Calf Stretch: Stand on your toes on a curb or step with both feet. Hold a wall or sign for balance. Remove one foot and let the other heel drop to the lower surface. Keep your body upright and drop your heel until you feel resistance. Hold for a count of twenty and repeat with the other side.
Quadriceps Stretch: Stand up straight and hold onto something for balance. Lift your right leg behind you, bending your leg at the knee and bringing your foot towards your left buttock cheek. Grasp your right ankle with your left hand and pull it gently into the stretch. The goal is not to jam your foot into your buttock, but to pull the quadriceps muscle back. Repeat on the other side.
As important as stretching is to maintaining your health, you should also keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and during your workout. It’s often said that the goal is 64 ounces of water per day, but this is only a general range. During hot days and when you exercise, you’re going to need more water. The best indicator of your hydration is the color of your urine. When it’s dark, you need to drink more fluids.
Remember that water isn’t the only source of hydration. Food with high water content is a great way to satisfy both hunger and hydration needs. Melons and leafy vegetables have a huge water percentage. Contrary to common belief, coffee, tea, and fruit juices are all valid ways to hydrate, although you should limit how much of these you drink. In general, drink a cup of water before and after your workout and enough during the day so you don’t feel thirsty, and you’ll be fine.
Walking is a great way to stay in shape during the summer. It doesn’t take a lot of fancy equipment, just a pair of decent shoes and a willingness to get out there. With these tips on stretching and hydration, you can make sure that you stay healthy while you’re on the road.