It’s hot outside, the beer is extra cold and the barbecue is cooking up steaks for a summer time feast. The last thing on your mind is the workout on your calendar and the sixty minutes of elliptical training and pushups waiting for you at the gym. The fact that the gym environment gets extra hot and uncomfortable doesn’t make exercise any easier! Exercising is already unpleasant and hard to commit to in the winter months. It’s even harder in the summer because there are so many more appealing alternatives after work or in the evenings (when we typically go to the gym). Exercise is an important part of a healthy body and mind and there are ways to beat the “after summer bulge” and still enjoy everything summer has to offer! Below is a list of ways to keep up with your fitness routine and survive the summer.
Top 10 Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy During the Summer
1. Set Summer Time Goals
Many people think of setting goals at the start of a new year or when they begin a new challenge. Goals aren’t restricted to the first seven days of the year! They can be set any time you need to focus on staying on track, regardless of what your goal (big or small) may be.
Setting a goal is a good start. Setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal is a more effective way to achieve the goals we set. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Examples of a summer S.M.A.R.T. goals include:
- “To maintain my current weight throughout the summer and get in a minimum of two workouts per week (45 minutes each).”
- “To walk a minimum of 30 minutes each day after dinner throughout the summer to get some fresh air and keep my stress to a minimum.”
2. Workout in the Morning
If you’re used to working out at the gym (and can’t get a workout anywhere else) you’ll notice that the gym can get too warm and unbearable when you’re working up a sweat. It’s especially difficult in the evenings when the heat has been collecting throughout the day. Consider an early morning workout! Benefits of a morning workout include:
- Cooler temperatures in the gym
- A faster metabolism during the day (so you burn more calories)
- A more productive day (more energy is sustained throughout the work day)
- Sleeping better at night
3. Stay Properly Hydrated
Keeping the body properly hydrated is important any day of the year. It is even more important during the summer months when it is warmer and the body is continually challenged to maintain the right body temperature. It’s even more difficult if you’re active and exercising.
Water is necessary to the healthy function of all internal organs and must be consumed to replace the amount lost each day from basic daily activities. According to the Food and Nutrition Board (2004), it is recommended women consume 2.7 liters (91 fl. oz.) and men drink 3.7 liters (125 fl. oz.) of water per day. Also, be sure to get another 8 to 10 fl. oz. of water every 15 to 20 minutes when exercising.
4. Wear Sunscreen
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen (with an SPF 30 or more to protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays).
- Put enough on to protect your skin (apply liberally and apply often throughout the day).
- Apply correctly (applied to clean, dry skin 30 minutes before sun exposure).
- Reapply regularly (perspiration, exercise and towel drying removes sunscreen from the skin).
- Apply to any area of skin exposed to the sun.
- Use everyday, regardless of weather (UV radiation is still present on cloudy days).
- Avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm (the sun is strongest at these times).
- Children, babies and fair-skinned individuals need greater UV protection.
5. Get Enough Sleep
With longer days and shorter nights, it can be difficult getting a good night’s sleep (not to mention the late night parties and events). Keep in mind that the results that you will achieve from your workouts and activities you do depends on the quality and quantity of rest you give your body. Also, the intensity of each workout will determine how much time your body needs to fully recover (which can range from 24 to 48 hours).
Recovery of the body (with our without a workout) involves:
- Heart rate and blood pressure returning to normal.
- Removal of lactic acid and byproducts from intense exercise.
- Replacing glycogen (energy found in muscle cells) back into the muscles.
- Repair of muscle fibers.
- Restoring the body’s normal hormone levels.
You work incredibly hard to help your body. Close the curtains, turn down the temperature and get a good night’s sleep!
6. Put Away the Car Keys
In the colder months, sitting in a car is mandatory when it comes to getting from point “A” to point “B” (no matter how close or far the drive). Now that it’s summer … it’s time to ditch the car keys and enjoy some fresh air! Modes of transportation that don’t require a gas powered engine (and human power) include:
If you’ve got to drive, get a few more calories burned by parking further away from the front door. If you take public transit, why not get off one or two stops early. That way you get five to ten minutes of cardio in that adds up at the end of the week.
7. Choose Low-Calorie Alcoholic Drinks
- Use the appropriate sized glass for your alcoholic beverage. This will help gauge the amount of alcohol you consume at one time (beer – 12 fl. oz.; wine – 5 fl. oz.; distilled spirits – 1.5 fl. oz.). Oversized martini glasses and beer mugs can account for two or more servings.
- When drinking wine, choose the red varieties. Wine, in general, is the most calorie-friendly choice but red wine has many other benefits (e.g. antioxidants and resveratrol).
- When drinking beer, choose regular or light. Lagers, ales and stouts can be nearly double the amount of calories of regular beer.
- Limit the number of cocktails mixed with sugar, juices and carbonated drinks. Examples of the high calorie cocktails include:
- Long Island Iced Tea – 780 calories
- Margarita – 740 calories
- White Russian – 425 calories
- Gin/Vodka Tonic – 200 calories
8. Protect Your Eyes
People who are active tend to put their eyes at even greater risk because they are exposed to the environment, to the damaging rays of the sun (UVA and UBV rays), equipment and accessories and are in contact with fingers and hands (ie. wiping away sweat, removing dirt, etc.).
Whether you’re at the gym, playing outdoors or playing sports in a gymnasium or field consider the following tips to protect your eyes from injury or infection:
- Avoid touching your eyes with your hands. Use a clean cloth or towel to wipe sweat away from your face.
- Wear protective eyewear when playing sports that involve sporting equipment or accessories (ie. balls, bats, sticks, etc.).
- Wear sunglasses when participating in activities outdoors. Choose sunglasses that block 99-100% of both UVA and UVB rays.
Regardless, be proactive and get your eyes examined by an eye care professional at least once every two years (more often if you have a family history of cataracts or other eye conditions). Also, include lots of dark green leafy vegetables in your diet (ie. spinach, kale, collard greens) and fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
9. Explore New Activities and Sports
Ever notice how your body aches after playing an unexpected pick up game of basketball in the park or helping a friend move into a new apartment? You don’t need any additional weights or have to count out sets or repetitions. Your body feels the effects of the work because you challenged muscles to work in new ways (in ways they couldn’t be challenged safely in a traditional workout environment).
The human body does an amazing job of adapting to its environment. Challenging the body beyond its comfort zone is what causes it to change. Unfortunately, we are creatures of habit and we choose to do things that are comfortable and safe (i.e. same workout schedule, same exercises, same routines). This means our muscles get used to the same exercises and movements and no longer adapt and change.
Activities that challenge all angles and abilities of the body (without the need for additional weights) are a great addition to any workout as a way to:
- Add variety if you are getting bored with your workout routine.
- Challenge the body a different way if you’ve hit a “plateau” (the body isn’t seeing results over long term training).
- Make physical activity fun and enjoyable again!
Choose activities that you enjoy (or that you think you would enjoy) and explore how your body responds to new and exciting challenges!
10. Enjoy Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables
If you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables each day, the summer may be the best time to start! The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. The guidelines advise two cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day. Produce sections in your local grocery store and farmers markets highlight the following seasonal fruits and vegetables, a nutritious, delicious and lower calorie option to traditional summertime foods:
- Apricots, plums & pluots
- Peaches and nectarines
- Green beans
- Peppers (sweet and spicy)
Final Thoughts …
With only about one hundred days of summer (from Memorial Day to Labor Day) it’s important to find a balance between enjoying the best season of the year and staying on track with your fitness. Remember to always be good to your body … and it will be good to you in return. Enjoy the summer!