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Safe Summer Exercise

The summer is a great time of year to take your workout outdoors! For most, summer flies by so fast that it is important to take advantage of the beautiful weather that comes along with it before it gets cold again. If working out in the heat, be sure to be mindful of how your body is feeling, and take the following few steps to ensure a safe and fun time out in the heat!

Take time to adapt

If you are accustomed to working out in a temperature controlled environment, moving your routine out into the midday sun requires some preparation.

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Your body needs time to acclimate to the higher temperatures and environmental changes. Generally, 10 to 14 days of heat exposure combined with exercise will greatly reduce your risk for heat injury.

Once heat adapted, you will notice you sweat more and sooner. Properly allowing your body to adjust to the heat will ultimately result in a lower body core temperature, a decreased heart rate response to exercise, and a diminished potential for dehydration and electrolyte depletion.

Begin with shorter periods of outdoor exercise, and try to avoid heading out during peak temperature and humidity (from 1p.m. to 5 p.m.). Gradually increase your workout time over the next 10 to 14 days to ensure your body safely acclimates.

Stay hydrated

This means pre, during and post workout. Your body is approximately 70% water. It is vital to stay hydrated at all times throughout the day, and especially during a high intensity workout. 

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Your body has a built-in cooling system that helps you adjust to heat. This is why you perspire. This system can fail if you are exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time. The result may be heat exhaustion, that awful fatigue that makes you feel as if one more step could be your last, or even heat stroke.

A good way to know that you are hydrating properly is by checking the color of your urine. Pale yellow (think lemonade), is a sign you are well hydrated. Darker colors (heading toward the color of apple juice), mean you need to be drinking more.

Do be aware that some medications and supplements alter the color of urine, so this gauge, while good for many, does not work for everyone. To be safe, do drink the recommended 8 to 10 ounces of water for every 20 minutes of activity.

Be careful not to drink too much water, called over-hydration. It can lead to a problem called hyponatremia (low blood sodium).

Replenish you electrolytes

Electrolytes include sodium and potassium and are necessary for proper hydration and rehydration. In warmer temperatures, salt depletion can contribute to heat exhaustion, especially when you rehydrate but fail to replace the electrolytes lost through sweating. You lose electrolytes when you perspire and they need to be replaced by drinking fluids and eating foods rich in these minerals.

Coconut water is a great and tasty source of electrolytes. You can also add coconut water to smoothies as an alternative to plain water.

One ounce of olives, salted nuts, or pumpkin seeds are all great options to quickly replenish your sodium levels. The best power snack combines sodium and potassium. Try a banana (422mg potassium) with a handful of salted nuts (87mg sodium per ounce) or some broccoli (457mg potassium per cup) with sprinkled with some sea salt (575mg sodium per ¼ tsp).

Dress appropriately

Dark colors absorb the heat, which can make you feel as if you’re wrapped in a warm blanket. Heavyweight, tight-fitting clothing will also heat you up. Keep it loose. Keep it light. More air will be able to circulate over your skin, keeping you cool.

Adding a few additional pieces to your summer workout wardrobe is well worth the investment. Choose breathable, lightweight, and light-colored workout attire that permits your sweat to evaporate. Include a hat or some sort of sun-blocking apparel. Not only will these types of materials help you stay cooler during your workout, but they can help you avoid the skin irritation, breakouts, or heat rashes that can result from extra-sweaty training sessions.

When shopping, choose workout wear labelled as ‘breathable,’ ‘moisture-wicking,’ and mesh’ to maximize your chance of staying cool, dry, and comfortable.

Be mindful of sun exposure

Vitamin D is vital for regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, facilitating normal immune function, and boosting one’s mood! Vitamin D is provided to you for free by the sun! Getting outside also allows your body to absorb a natural source of vitamin D 

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Protecting yourself from over-exposure is important when spending time outdoors. Commercial sunscreens are packed with chemicals and additives that may not only be harmful to you and the environment, but definitely do not conform to the principles of a Paleo lifestyle. Check out our summer skin safety tips.

Workout in the shade

On the really hot days, if shade is an option, try to stay in those areas as much as possible. Not only will this reduce exposure to the sun, it will also help your body feel cooler, which will result in greater energy for your workout. One of the best aspects of working out outdoors is the bright sunshine. Listen to your body and be sure to stay hydrated and/or hit a shady spot or trail if need be.

Know when to go inside

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Pay heed to the heat. Listen to your body. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek out a cool place as soon as you can:

  • Weakness
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Paling of the skin
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat

Try pre-cooling

Take a cold shower or drink an icy beverage just before your workout to combat the debilitating effects of high heat and maybe even boost your performance. A recent review of similar pre-cooling methods found that they clearly improved athletes' performance in a laboratory setting, suggesting that these techniques could be beneficial for outdoor exercisers in hot environmental conditions.

Some professional athletes have even taken to wearing one latex glove  filled with ice to keep their core temperatures down during their exertion.

Getting outside is both fun and a nice change of pace from the winter months where population as a whole tends to spend far more time indoors on the couch under the blankets eating comfort food. Being prepared so you can maximize and enjoy the warmer weather is important for all sorts of outdoor play. Summers are short, so make the best of them!


Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com

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