Summer can be the best and worst of times for walkers. While warmer temperatures, sunny skies, and chirping birds provide an inviting environment, conditions can also get unpleasant if you don't plan ahead. Here's how to make your summer walks safe and enjoyable.
Be an early bird.
The best time of the day for summer walks is early morning. Temperatures are cooler and there's less pollution in the air. If that doesn't work with your schedule, then aim for evening walks—but don't forget the bug repellent, as mosquitoes are active at dusk. And wear a reflective vest if you're walking after dark.
If you must go out during the day, avoid the hottest time—usually between 3 and 6 p.m.—and try to choose a shady route, which can feel as much as 25 degrees cooler.
Sip before you step.
This will ensure that you're hydrated when you start your walk. Runners who sipped a slushie before venturing out in hot, humid conditions were able to keep going 20 percent longer than those who drank water, according to a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. (Make your own slushie by blending ice with high-water fruits such as berries, watermelon, peaches or plums.)
Then carry water or a sports drink and sip every 10 to 15 minutes while walking.
Loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing reflect sunlight instead of absorbing it to keep you cooler. Pale colors are also less likely to attract bugs. (If bugs are a problem, avoid using scented sunscreens, deodorants, and laundry detergent.)
Sneakers made of lightweight, breathable fabrics, like mesh, will make your feet sweat less than leather styles.
Choose synthetic, moisture-wicking fabrics instead of cotton, which stays damp and can cause chafing. This is especially important when buying socks to prevent blisters.
To avoid chafing underarms or between thighs, spread petroleum jelly on areas that may rub. This will reduce friction and discomfort
Allow Time for Extra Breaks
If your planning on going for a long walk/hike make sure you're prepared to carry some extra water/electrolyte nourishment along with you to keep you hydrated.
A walk that would take you four hours on a normal day could take you quite a bit longer on a really hot day. Prolonged walking in high temperatures can be exhausting and it’s physically draining. Make sure that you are taking plenty of little breaks and are listening to your body. If you’re hot, sweaty and out of breath, take a 5-minute break. Heatwaves are not the time to be setting summit time records. For a 4 hour walk, you may want to consider taking along with you a water camel, NO not the animal kind, but the water-hauling gear that straps to your back like a pack but contains a bladder of water that will keep you hydrated but will distribute its weight between the shoulder blades so that you can walk easily for a prolonged length of time.
Eat the Right Snacks
gain, this is only if you’re going out on a long hike/walk that has you out and about for more than one or two hours. As well as staying hydrated, it’s important to replace the salt that you lose through sweating. Packing salty snacks such as crisps, crackers and nuts is a great way to do this. The body needs salt to retain water, so eating these salty snacks actually helps with hydration too.
Protect your eyes.
You'll have better posture if you wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat. When the sun is in your eyes, you're more likely to look down, which can strain your back. Not to mention dealing with all that glare can eventually cause eye strain and lead to headaches.
When weather advisories warn that conditions are dangerous for outdoor activities, try walking indoors—for example, at a mall. If hot-weather advisories are common in your area, you might also want to invest in a summer gym membership for access to a treadmill. (even though we like the idea of stepping off outdoors when we can!)
Listen to your body.
If you experience muscle cramps, a headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness or nausea, stop walking and take a break. Drink a beverage with some salt in it, like a sports drink, and rest. If symptoms don't improve within a few minutes, call your doctor. You may be experiencing a bout of heatstroke, so don’t take these symptoms lightly!
Choose the right gear.
Custom water carriers—Carrying a water bottle can throw off balance, slow you down and cause achiness in your hands, arms and shoulders. Various, hip and vest carriers solve this problem with their H20-toting waist belts that come in a variety of styles.
Skirt-short combos—Wearing tight-fitting bike shorts is a great way to avoid chafing between your thighs, but a running skirt offers a little more coverage. You can find a variety of sportswear out on the net to choose from. The best fabrics are those that will wick away the sweat from your body to help you keep cool and comfortable while you’re walking/running. Or if you already have a pair of bike shorts, cover up a bit with a drape-skirt, with a fun design on it from any fabric store. No sense spending a lot of money when your goal is to be cool and respectable looking while your outside walking around!
Neck cooler—Keep your neck cool with one of the many stay-cool towels or neck wraps available in athletic stores. For shorter walks, partially freeze a wet bandanna or towel and then drape it around your neck. This works great in a pinch and for those shorter treks you may be taking. Even if the towel gets a little warm, the wetness will still work in your favor to keep your body comfortable!
Wear Light Colors
Put simply, light colors reflect light and dark colors absorb it so if you want to stay cooler you need to wear lighter colors. Counterintuitively, it’s also better to cover up as much as possible when walking for long periods in the sun. Lightweight, loose-fitting clothes are essential and long sleeves are recommended.
Almost all outdoor shops stock shirts and t-shirts with built-in UPF protection so it’s definitely worth adding one of these to your gear collection.
Keep Applying Sunscreen
It’s a fairly obvious one but always worth a mention. Wear sunscreen. Just applying sunscreen in the morning, or before you set off is not enough. A good sunscreen will only last around 2 hours before you need to reapply, however, if you’re sweating it’s likely that you’re diluting or washing this off, so every hour is more advisable. It’s also worth noting that sunscreen has an expiration date on the bottle. If you’ve had the same bottle at the bottom of your backpack for years, it’s probably no good and you’ll need to get a new one each year.
If you keep the above recommendations in mind, you should have no problems with going for your walks this summer season. Whether you’re going for a short stretch of your legs, a good hour at a fast pace or making a morning of it and going for a 3- or 4-hour walk. These tips will serve you well to help keep you safe and sound while you're improving your distance and stamina all summer long.
Happy walking, from your walking companions here at PedometersUSA.com!