Magpie

Exercising in Summer When You Are Heat Sensitive

Many of us with chronic conditions are in the unfortunate situation of needing exercise yet at the same time, we are heat sensitive (sensitive is an understatement in my view, but it is what it is). Exercise makes us hot – or at least warmer than normal, depending on the intensity of our routines. How can we get through summer and keep up our exercise regime? We need to keep pain and stiffness away!

For those of us not native to Australian heat, it may be even more challenging. Well before I got sick, way back in 1974, I arrived in Melbourne on a February day. 38 degrees Celsius. Up until that point in my life, 23 degrees was a warm day! I thought I’d landed in Hades! I had a girlfriend living in Adelaide at the time whom I visited. If my memory serves, over there it was 43 degrees. I remember lying on her kitchen tiles to try to keep cool.

Earlier today I saw the magpie above, pictured here keeping cool under the protection of the leaves, with beak open and wings lifted from his body to maximise heat loss. I missed that image, but was pleased to see him looking cooler.

Over the years I had somewhat acclimatised, until I got sick. For many of us, heat intolerance/sensitivity is entirely new, so how best to cope?

Ensure Your Gym is Properly Cooled

This gives you some flexibility with staying active. Today, I will be walking inside, not outside. Treadmills are not my preference, I much prefer walking outside, but I found even walking at 6 pm last night uncomfortable and we are nowhere near summer yet.

Allow yourself to cool down before you venture outside.

Swim

If you can, swimming is a great exercise and the environment is cool. Getting to and from the pool may not be so cool, but with good air con in the car and a close car park most of us should manage.

If you have never learnt to swim, think about lessons. In addition to the physical benefits, swimming has been shown to have mental health benefits, so important to those of us managing chronic illness.

You may need to invest in a rashie for adequate UV protection depending on the time of day you prefer to swim.

Hydrate!

I wrote Hydration Habits – Are You Drinking Enough? recently, so I refer you to that article for the detail. Make sure you hydrate before, during and after exercise.

Cool Your Skin During Exercise

I have lesions on my left arm, the result of medication-related photosensitivity, which become bright red when I exercise. I run my arm under cold water between sets. A wet towel on your face, chest or back can help. Some gyms have large fans facing the cardio equipment – turn them on.

Change Your Routine

In Victoria we are into daylight savings time. Use it to your advantage. The UV danger window has shifted an hour and the evenings are lighter. Check the UV ratings every day, work around it. If walking outside, walk later when it is cooler, or earlier if you are an early riser. Early is not an option for many with chronic conditions as our energy levels seem quite depleted most mornings.

Hydrotherapy Pool

If you have access to a hydrotherapy pool, this can be an alternative to strength workouts in the gym. I find the water temperature a little warm for me personally, but I still do exercises in it. A quick dip in the normal pool to cool off before the trip home is a sensible move, or a cool shower.

Wear Light, Loose Clothing

I’m a minimal clothing person in summer, I always have been. The concept of long-sleeve shirts, rashies in the pool, sunnies and hats was never my style. Now I own long-sleeved shirts of 50+ protection fabric. Of course, while this helps my photosensitivity, it doesn’t help my heat sensitivity as much! Learn to juggle the clothing style, time of exercise and type of exercise that best suits your personality. Why is your personality important? Because we are all more likely to do something we are enjoying. If we HAVE to wear a hat and we hate hats, we will be less likely to go for that walk. Better to change the time so we don’t need the hat.

Summary

It is getting warmer now, so now is the time to experiment and plan for the warmer times coming. Know what you will do on really hot days, so when they arrive you are prepared. Know what temperature is your definite “Don’t leave the house” temperature. What will you do those days, to keep yourself moving? Double your stretches, maybe. Use thera-bands. Do body-weight squats and push-ups at home. Leg lifts with ankle weights. There are options. These ankle weights of mine have 4 x 575 gram removable weights, so super adjustable for home use.

 

If you are in a pacing UP phase, the UP may need to be put on hold on really hot days – it just may not be sensible to have that level of exertion. That’s OK, just keep moving.

When all else fails – get a manicure! At least the salon will be cool.

Manicure

 

Hydration Habits – Are You Drinking Enough?

Yes, the dreaded word – HYDRATION. Are you monitoring your fluid intake? Is it enough?

I, as an exercise professional, should have this down pat. Of course I drink two litres of water every day! Or do I? See if any of this rings true for you.

Yesterday I had a few minor disruptions to my day. Who doesn’t have disruptions? Driving home from the vet with my cat (THAT is a WHOLE other story!), I realised all I had drunk all day was three cups of coffee. One with breakfast, one after my manicure and one with lunch. It was now 6:30 pm. So I had drunk no more than 660 mls of white coffee. I’d had yoghurt on my breakfast, not even milk! I had thrown down the morning medications with some water, but what was that? 100 mls max?

As we get older there is an added problem – we tend not to recognise we are thirsty. Even before that stage of life hits us, we can think we are hungry when we are actually thirsty – and for those of us managing our weight in order to manage pain, eating instead of drinking is not a wonderful thing.

At my desk job I am good. As soon as I arrive in the office, I fill this water container. it is 900 mls and I finish it by lunch time. Refill, repeat.

When working out I am good! I may be a little too pink, but I’m good.

OK, you got me, two of those are protein shakers, but the shot does illustrate maybe I should try a change of colour next time. I DO have a dark blue water bottle as well. I’m not exactly short of water bottles: one permanently in the office, one permanently in my gym pack and a third floating about.

It is when I am home I find I am very slack. Why can’t I do the same thing at home as I do meticulously in the office and the gym, even at the pool? I do not know. I am working very hard on establishing better personal hydration habits.

It seems at home the water bottle is just never where I am. If I’m in the lounge, the water bottle is in the kitchen. If I’m in the kitchen, the water bottle is in the bedroom. Plus I have a tendency not to use a water bottle at home: I have a tap and glasses right there, after all!

It is spring in Australia, at least it is spring in the states that have four seasons! The blossoms are everywhere in Melbourne. In parts of Australia we are having a terrible drought, nothing is growing, in fact much is not surviving, let alone growing.

Like plants, we don’t do well without adequate and appropriate hydration. The Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council has good detail about our need for water. Please click on that link and read the detail. Emphasis added in the quotation below.

Dehydration of as little as 2% loss of body weight results in impaired physiological responses and performance. The reported health effects of chronic mild dehydration and poor fluid intake include increased risk of kidney stones (Borghi et al 1996, Hughes & Norman 1992, Iguchi et al 1990, Embon et al 1990), urinary tract cancers (Bitterman et al 1991, Wilkens et al 1996, Michaud et al1999), colon cancer (Shannon et al 1996) and mitral valve prolapse (Lax et al 1992) as well as diminished physical and mental performance (Armstrong et al 1985, Brooks & Fahey 1984, Brouns et al 1992, Cheung et al 1998, Kristel-Boneh et al 1988, Torranin et al 1979, Sawka & Pandolf 1990).

If you feel thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated. If you have a medical issue that compromises your ability to recognise thirst, you need to be extra vigilant.

Adult men need about 2.6 litres of fluid a day and adult women about 2.1 litres. This is over and above the fluid intake from food. More may be required depending on activity levels, climate and body weight. Medibank has a handy calculator based on age and gender, but it does not take into account climate extremes, exertion or body weight.

Around 50-80% of our body weight is water. The higher our lean mass, the higher the water content. We need water for most body processes including digestion, absorbing and transporting nutrients, disposing of waste products and keeping our body temperature stable.

Source: Medibank

It is said our skin looks better if we are properly hydrated. From my personal experience, I totally agree. Dehydration can add years to the face and who wants that? Not me!

Those of us with health challenges need to make sure we give our bodies all the help we can: hydration is important.

How are your hydration habits? Please share in the comments.