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

 

Make 2018 YOUR Year for SMART Goals

Seasons Greetings to all! Christmas is 30 or so hours away as I write (for those of us in the southern hemisphere). As the sun sets on 2017, we have an opportunity to re-evaluate our health progress and polish up our plans to get stronger, more active, more mobile and have less pain, less lethargy, better sleep: culminating in a better quality of life in 2018.

If you are still in “I’m thinking about it” mode, take stock over Christmas. What invitations did you turn down because you didn’t feel you could summon the energy required? Would you like to accept those invitations next year? Were you able to do the shopping you wanted to do without crashing in a heap for two days afterwards? Make 2018 the year you make the choice to include moving more into your treatment plans.

Talk to your doctors, get a clear understanding of what benefits you may expect from moving more.

SMART Goals

Now that my recent treatment change is behind me, I’m making more ambitious plans for myself and setting new goals for the new year. SMART goals. SMART goals are used in many walks of life: I’ve seen various wordings used depending on the context. For our purposes, I like the following definitions.

S = Specific. The goal needs to be something specific, not a nebulous idea.

M = Measurable. If we can’t measure our achievements against the goal, we won’t know if we are getting anywhere.

A = Achievable. It has to be achievable. If I set myself a goal of climbing Mt Everest, while both specific and measurable, for me it is not achievable. Swimming a two kilometre session – THAT is achievable.

R = Relevant. You will see realistic often used in this spot, but for our purposes I prefer relevant. We have limitations on our energy, our strength and our time. There is no point in setting goals that are not relevant to what we wish to achieve, which is better quality of life.

T = Timeboxed. There needs to be a time period within which you will achieve this goal. This helps to hold you to account and stay on target.

Let’s give it a try. “My goal is to swim two kilometres.” Is this a SMART goal?

No, it isn’t. While it is specific, measurable, relevant and (I hope) achievable, I have set no time target. “I want to walk more”, while relevant and achievable, is not a measurable goal – “more” could be anything. Walk longer distances or walk more often? Nor is it timeboxed. Walk more by when? 

Let’s have another go at this. “My goal is to swim a two kilometre session by 30 June 2018”. Now I have a SMART goal. I will need a progress plan to reach that goal, so I will need shorter term goals to get there: “My goal is to swim 1.2 kilometres once a week by 28 February 2018”.

That is one of my goals. Yours may well be something along the lines of “I will do my stretches every day for the month of January.” This is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timeboxed AND will set you up for the next step in establishing a movement as medicine strategy.

A walking more SMART goal could be very simple. “I will walk for three minutes, five times a day for one week”. At the end of the week a new SMART goal can be set. Remember when setting goals to pace yourself, always pace yourself.

Kyboot

For context, I was on crutches for much of 2014. I was diagnosed at the end of 2014. You can read how I started back to moving more on How tough is it to get moving?. My major goals for 2018 are:

  • Swim a two kilometre session by 30 June 2018.
  • Increase my daily step count to 10,000 steps a day by 30 September 2018.
  • Increase my leg press to 160 kilograms by 30 June 2018. (I was at 140 kg before my treatment change – I have to work back up after dropping back).

As I achieve those, I will set new goals during the year.

Of course, I have one other goal: help others get moving! I am back to normal availability after my recent hiatus, so reach out. It costs nothing to investigate the possibility.

Have a great time over the break! Stay safe!