It’s now summer, and we’ve been waiting for this time of year for a long time now. We stayed the course during the other seasons. Walking through those spring showers. Walking in that crisp Fall weather. (Which was really pretty great!). Walking through those subzero temps during the winter months, while the snow was blowing sideways, and you were wondering if you had all your marbles to walk outdoors in this kind of weather. But you persevered and continued to maintain your exercise routines during these months and were able to steadily increase both your speed and distance. And you're seeing the results. But you longed for the summer when you’d be able to go out for your walk-in shorts and a tank top, while the sunshine provided the right rays to give you that tan you’ve been looking forward to getting.
But sometimes it can get a little too hot this time of year, but this also shouldn’t stop you from getting in your walks and staying the course. If the heat is on outdoors, follow these cool walking tips to make the most of your climate and maintain your walking routine.
Choose a Cool Time of Day to Walk
Know your local climate. Dawn is best, although it comes early in June and July. In some areas, a sea breeze begins cooling things down in mid-afternoon. But in many inland areas, the temperatures rise until early evening, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and do not cool off until sunset. Your after-work walk schedule may put you into the hottest time of day.
Think twice about exercising when the ambient temperature is above 90 F (32 C) and the relative humidity is above 60 percent, according to the American Council on Exercise. Check weather apps and sites for the heat index and use it to determine when it's too hot to exercise outdoors. It's best to do your walking workouts on the treadmill or an indoors walking track rather than risk unhealthy heat conditions.
Select a Route That Includes Shade
Avoid direct sun and walking on asphalt or concrete. Natural surface paths under the trees are the cooler places to walk. These are also favored by insects, so choose an insect repellent if they bug you too much, and check for ticks afterward. You can use the online mapping app to find a walking route and use the "Satellite View" or "Hybrid View" to see where the trees and shade may be.
Ensure You Have Enough Water
Drink a big glass of water (12 to 20 ounces) 60 minutes before you start your walk. That starts you off well-hydrated, but you have a chance to eliminate any extra before you start walking. Then drink a cup of water (6 to 8 ounces) every 20 to 30 minutes along your walk. You can tell if you end up dehydrated after your walk if your pulse rate remains high and your urine is dark yellow. The drinking guidelines for walkers and runners say to "drink when thirsty," so be sure to carry water along so you can do so as soon as you are thirsty. Avoid drinks with a high sugar concentration, as that can cause nausea. Water is the best drink when walking for up to an hour. If you are walking and sweating for more than an hour, switch after the first hour to a sports drink that replaces electrolytes (body salt). Start with plenty of ice in your water so it stays cooler during your walk. Look for insulated water bottles and hydration packs.
Make Your Own Shade
Your hot-weather walking gear should include light-colored clothing that is rated for shielding you from the sun's ultraviolet rays. While you may think less clothing will be cooler, note that people who walk in the desert keep their skin covered with loose, lightweight clothing.
Wear a hat with a visor or a desert cap with flaps to shade your neck. Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, skin cancer, and wrinkles. Wear sunglasses that filter UVA and UVB to protect your eyes.
Use Cooling Tactics
Look for magic cooling bandannas that have crystals that swell with water and keep your neck cool for a long time. You can also dampen and freeze a bandanna or washcloth and keep it in a Ziplock bag with ice cubes, even carrying it in an insulated carrier in a backpack. Place it around your neck for a quick cooldown.
Splashing your face and neck with cool water can help you cool down. During your walk, you can soak your hat in the water at a water fountain to help keep you cool. If you wear sweatbands on your wrists, soaking those in cool water can also help provide heat relief.
Take It Easy-Really!
If you can't avoid the heat, lower the intensity of your walking workout so your body generates less internal heat. Slow down, especially when going uphill. Save the higher intensity workouts for cooler times. Also, note that if you are going from a cool climate to a warm one that you will feel the heat even at relatively cool temperatures. If you are traveling, take this into account and plan easier workouts until you are used to the new climate.
Watch for Heat Sickness and Dehydration
Monitor yourself and your walking companions for signs of heat sickness. If you become dizzy, nauseated, have dry skin or the chills, stop and try to get a drink of water or sports drink. If you do not feel better, get medical help immediately. If you are under care for a medical condition, especially heart or respiratory problems or have had heat stroke previously, consult with your health-care provider about walking in the heat.
It is interesting to note that one research review of cooling strategies during exercise found that they helped exercisers keep going but didn't appear to actually reduce the internal body temperature. You may still be at risk for heat sickness even if you don't feel hot. Keep that in mind and stay safe.
What To Wear While Walking:
Cotton can be OK: You’ve heard it before cotton kills. Cotton has a bad reputation in the outdoors because it absorbs lots of moisture and dries very slowly, which can create an uncomfortable and dangerous situation on wet and/or cold days. But in hot and dry conditions, the moisture can feel good against your skin, and as it evaporates it will leave you feeling cool.
You must be careful when wearing cotton though. Make sure you’re OK with the feel of wet cotton next to your skin (some people just don’t like it) and that it won’t cause chafing if it rubs against your skin. More importantly, if there’s any chance you’ll be out when the temp's dip in the evening, carry a change of clothes or choose to wear synthetics instead of cotton.
Open vents: Some shirts, shorts, and pants designed for hiking incorporate vents. Opening these up on a hot day helps improve airflow.
Choose UPF-rated clothing: All clothing blocks the sun’s rays to a certain extent, but clothing that has a UPF rating is guaranteed to provide protection. Common ratings include UPF 15, UPF 30 and UPF 50+. Learn more in our Sun Protection Clothing Basics article.
Cover up: It may seem counter-intuitive to put extra clothes on in hot weather, but the added coverage can provide necessary protection from UV rays, especially for people with sensitive skin. A lightweight long-sleeve shirt, sun sleeves, and a neck gaiter can provide effective protection.
Put a hat on: A hat provides essential protection from the sun for your face and neck. A baseball cap provides OK shade, but a sun hat with a brim that goes all the way around is even better.
Cool your neck: A bandana, sun-protective neck gaiter or other lightweight cloth can be dunked in water and worn over your head or around your neck to keep the back of your neck cool and covered while the water evaporates. Special polymer-crystal filled neck scarves maintain the moisture for even longer periods of time.
Wear the right socks: Never wear cotton socks (choose wool or synthetic instead) and make sure they fit well. Socks that are too big can have wrinkles that rub and socks that are too small can create pressure points and sock slippage. Learn more in our Blister Prevention and Care article.
Carry a hydration pack: It might seem like a small difference but having a sip tube always at the ready will make you more likely to hydrate frequently than if you have to reach for a water bottle.
Bring a squirt bottle: When the going gets rough, plan a sneak water attack on your hiking buddies, or use the mist setting to create a cooling cloud whenever you need it.
So, welcome summer and all the warmth it has to offer! Get out there, stay hydrated and walk during a time that makes sense to you. This way you can enjoy the months of heat and daylight that extends for the longest time of the day. For a time, of course, cause after the summer solstice, those days slowly but surely begin to get shorter and shorter until summer begins to fade, and the cool weather of the Fall season makes itself felt. But don’t have any remorse. Fall is also one of the best seasons to take a walk and continue your journey to a healthier and fitter YOU!