The key to a healthy life is consistency. As Steven Pressfield says, you have to “Do the work.” When it comes to working out in the summer the same rules apply. Despite the myriad of distractions, excuses, and seemingly way better options, you’ve got to keep moving, training, and doing the work.
What happens when the work is hard? That’s the thing I don’t like about words like “consistency” or “work.” It’s always hard. If you live in many parts of the country, the sun comes out for two to three months of the year and so do you. Distractions come up fast. So do excuses. It’s too hot, humid, bugs, and there are a million other much more fun options. And let’s not forget to mention that kids are home and underfoot too. Who could forget?! Whether it’s weekends at the cabin, camping, relaxing on the patio or a cocktail or two in the evening, the glory of summer doesn’t last long and we can, and should, seize it. But that doesn’t have to mean our body and health take a back seat.
So when it comes to staying in shape this summer – actually doing the work – here are some critical tips to keep in mind.
1. Get Outside
Summer is the perfect time to get outside and there are dozens of activities to choose from. Whether you’re swimming, cycling or running, being outdoors is one of the best ways I know to get in tune with your body, life, and the mysteries and rhythms of nature. How the sun rises to meet the sky or the way the morning fog dances on the water lend beauty to an otherwise ordinary day. Add in the element of moving, training and changing your body and there’s something magical in it. While you’re working on your exercise, nature is working on you. But don’t get stuck in a rut. While summer is the perfect time to run, swim or bike, it’s also a great time to try something new like yoga, rock climbing, slack-lining, or COR44’s at-home circuit training workouts. Mixing in low-impact workouts will give your joints rest while keeping the muscles engaged. These workouts focus on and train the smaller stabilizer muscles that will improve your performance by doing your regular exercises. Check the forecast and see what’s ahead. If there’s a heat advisory, you may want to opt for less intense/high impact exercise or take your workout indoors. See how you could even incorporate a workout in just 10 minutes a day! Yes, it still works!
2. Start Early
With summer comes heat and, worse, humidity. These less-liked companions of summer not only make working out more difficult, but potentially dangerous. Unless you are training for a specific event that takes place in the daytime heat, avoid exercising between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It’s the hottest part of the day. Summer brings with it an assortment of virtues and longer days is one of them. Take advantage! Going early in the morning or late in the evening are both good (and much cooler) options, though I find early morning workouts tend to happen more consistently. Late afternoons and evenings tend to be our family time and I’m far less motivated to work out at the end of the day. In the evening I prefer my feet up and maybe a glass of wine, but that’s me. Whichever time you choose, creating consistency in your schedule will help you develop a routine, stick to it, and ultimately achieve your goals.
3. Set Goals
Speaking of goals, what do you want? I know it’s summer, which to me mostly means lake time, flip flops, and messy hair, but life will go on. Sigh. What are your summer goals? Are you looking to run a fall marathon, take a backpacking trip or simply feel good in your skin? You don’t have to scale a mountain peak or formulate a goal you don’t really have. Be true to you. But if you treat summer like a three-month vacation it will be hard to recover in more ways than one. Decide what you want in this season, or from it. Just like in every other area of life, when you have a goal you’re working toward, your workouts will become more motivating and meaningful.
4. Protect Yourself
Staying out of the sun doesn’t exactly work when you’re planning a five-mile run or a rock climbing adventure. While there is something to be said for getting your daily dose of Vitamin D, you can minimize damage by wearing sunscreen, especially on your face. My personal favorites are the tinted versions from Elta MD and Revision Skincare. They double as your makeup and who can’t benefit from that?! A hat or visor is also key to keeping the sun off your face. This summer, I’m seeing the effects of years of sun in the super-flattering form of increased pigment in my eyebrows and upper lip. Can you say mustache? (The answer is no. No, you can’t.) Needless to say, a visor is my new near-permanent hair accessory. Another option is to look for well-ventilated clothing with UPF in it. Summer workout gear doesn’t have to cost a lot but it should be technical, or “sweat-wicking.” Avoid cotton and look for lighter colors that will help reflect heat. Choose shaded trails or paths if possible and listen to your body. If you need to walk, walk. If you can safely cross over to the other side of the street that offers more shade, do it. Know when it’s smart or safer to stop or stretch. Stop immediately if you feel dizzy, weak, faint or nauseous.
5. Hydrate & Replenish
Before you head out, drink a glass of water and then try to drink every 20 minutes or so during exercise. I know this isn’t practical or convenient if you’re going for a run, especially if you’ve birthed children, but try. When you’re done with your workout, drink a few more glasses. If you don’t drink enough water, you’re more likely to get dehydrated. You know this. What you might not realize is that when you sweat, your body loses not only water, but electrolytes and salt too. If you sweat a lot during a hard workout, it’s important to replenish your electrolytes. I learned this lesson on a particularly hot marathon when I “hit the wall” at mile 20. Those unfortunate to be around me got to witness as I tried to replenish my salt deficiency by licking my arms! Sweat = salt. Sadly it wasn’t enough and I had to walk the last six miles and missed my PR. Take it from me, a sports drink or other electrolyte replenisher is a much better, more effective and a less embarrassing way to go!
In every area of life, the key to success is consistency. Whether it’s summer or any other “season” of life, working out is no different. You’ve got to overcome your excuses and do the work. Even when, or perhaps especially when, it’s hard. While summer is short, special, and should be savored, it’s not a vacation from your life. If you choose to see the outdoors as your playground, get out early, set summer goals, and protect, hydrate and replenish your body, you can build and stick to your exercise routine even during these distraction/fun-filled summer months. And that is what I call a win-win-win.
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