Exercise wisely in summer’s heat

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Are you summer-savvy when it comes to staying in shape? While many of us are by now quite familiar with the need for extra hydration when exercising during the summer months, especially if you are a fan of outdoor sports, there are several preconceived – and potentially dangerous — notions regarding fitness fun this time of year.

If you are one of the thousands of individuals who cannot seem to perk up in the morning without a cup of coffee, this may come as a wake-up call.  Coffee, or any highly caffeinated beverage, acts as a diuretic, leading to more fluid loss than normal when consumed prior to a workout.  Couple this with the additional electrolyte loss the body suffers as sweat production increases, and the potential for dehydration-related imbalances becomes a real factor.  Water is always the best option before and during a workout in the hot weather.  In fact, studies have shown that the cooler the water consumed, the better the body performs during the workout. 

Another summer pitfall in which I have actually found myself is succumbing to a lack of appetite after exercising in summer’s heat and humidity.  Honestly, after a workout and adequate hydration, there is often less of a desire to prepare and eat a post-workout meal, and even less room in my body for anything but liquid!  The body and its muscular system, however, do not realize it is June or July, and have all the same metabolic demands as they do when the snow is gently falling.  The good news is that not much “food density” is required to refuel properly.  A simple hard-boiled egg paired with fresh fruit or a handful of carrot sticks is often enough to recharge the body, especially if a regular whole-food meal will be forthcoming within 2 hours. If you cannot seem to fathom the idea of solid food after a run in the sweltering temperatures, a refreshing smoothie or whey protein shake works wonders toward refueling and replenishing lost hydration.

Choosing an appropriate outdoor exercise wardrobe can often present a conundrum.  It may seem outlandish to consider donning oneself in leggings or shorts made with any Spandex-type material.  After all, who wants to trap all that heat inside the skin on days like these?  While it is tempting to wear looser-fitting materials for an outdoor 5K run, this can actually exacerbate chafing. A better idea is to choose clothes that are fitted but are neither overly tight nor too baggy. Layering Spandex shorts under loose shorts, for example, is a great way to prevent chafing from ever becoming problematic.


A special alert goes out to all the men who are anxious to show off their sculpted torsos by jogging shirtless. Tempting though this may be, especially for the single gentlemen, sunburn becomes a real issue.  Considering that shirts have been worn throughout the workday during the cooler months, the skin on the torso has not yet become acclimated to the sun’s intense summer rays. Many clothing manufacturers sell workout gear designed with a sunscreen in the fabric.  This type of shirt is a perfect way to ease into outdoor running.  Even after a few trips to the beach, and a safe “base coat” tan has been established, slathering on sunscreen is a must if shirtless running is a priority.

Have fun this summer, remain active, enjoy the outdoors…but take these simple steps to ensure a safe and satisfying fitness experience!