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HIIT in the heat?

Adapting your workouts to the weather.

Article Author: Katie McPherson

Article Date:

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They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothin’ – Florida’s scorching temperatures draw vacationers from all over the world. Even for year-round residents, extreme heat (and those occasional frigid winter days) should give you pause when exercising.

Maybe you work out outdoors as a hobby or you’re training for a race. While you’re focused on your goals, your body is acclimating itself to the environment. Sudden changes in temperature can make exercise more difficult if you’re not used to it.

“You’ve got people who train for long-distance runs and then when the event comes around, it’s suddenly 20 degrees hotter and more humid,” said Jeffry Jacqmein, MD, family medicine physician with Baptist Primary Care. “To adjust, I might lessen the amount of running or not track my time, unless I’m acclimated to working out in those extreme temperatures or humidity.”

Start slow

If you’re trying to start a fitness routine, begin by easing in so you don’t overexert, especially if you’re getting started in abnormal temperatures for your area.

“Build slowly. We’re always looking at the person across from us and wanting to go faster or farther, but if I’m going to begin exercising in the Florida heat, I’d start in brief episodes,” said Dr. Jacqmein. “I might work out for five minutes and take a one-minute break, or even less depending on my beginning fitness level. Work out every other day or every third day until your body can handle the heat. You can also do more activities in the evenings. It might be 98 degrees during the day and 92 in the evening, but that minimal difference can really help.”

How to hydrate

While Dr. Jacqmein emphasized that acclimating your body to your climate is key, maintaining a healthy hydration level is important too.

“It’s not so much about rushing in a bunch of fluids right before a run. You want to be hydrated throughout the day and be listening to your body so you’re not dependent on a surge of fluid.”

Know your limits

Part of being in shape, said Dr. Jacqmein, is your body’s ability to cool itself down effectively when training. If you’re working out in different conditions than normal and you feel lightheaded, dizzy or weak, take a break.

“You should be sensitive that you’re pushing your body in a different environment, and those are signs that you need to back off, stop and get a wet towel.”

If the heat is making you feel unwell, Dr. Jacqmein recommended placing wet towels under your arms and on the back of your neck to help cool your body.

“The more you prepare, the more you learn to pick up on those cues and ease up on the intensity before you feel unwell. If you don’t feel right in your environment, you need to back down, take a break or let someone know you need help.”


If you want to start exercising with a little expert guidance, a Baptist wellness coach can help. Call 904.202.4500 or request free health screening at a Y Healthy Living Center.

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