Not too long ago I was writing on fitness tips to brave the winter.
Now, as summer begins, don’t let the predicted 45 degrees Celsius slow the tempo of your new year fitness resolution. If you are conditioned, you can still run outdoors, but with a special emphasis on hydration, and a few simple precautions. If outdoor activities and the gym are not for you, there are many recreational activities that could double up as a workout this summer.
My all-time and all-season favourite fitness activity. If you still choose to run outdoors, make sure you pay utmost attention to your fluid intake, not just water but any drink that will restore the body’s balance of electrolytes and minerals lost through sweating during a run. You could pick from a sports drink like Gatorade, which is a good mix of minerals and carbohydrates, a great pre- and during-run drink, then replenish the lost electrolytes through sweating with either coconut water or an oral rehydration solution (ORS) mixed in water or juice. A glucose drink can be a pre-run drink as it contains fast-release sugars which your body needs to fuel the run. But beware: If you are not performing an endurance activity after drinking glucose, there will be too much sugar in your system, and it will create havoc with your insulin levels. Also, glucose drinks are not meant to hydrate you or replenish electrolytes.
Make sure you wear the right running gear that allows you to carry a pouch or holster which accommodates a small bottle of water. Make sure you wear light and sweat-absorbent performance wear.
On a hot day, even your usual mile could cause dehydration or light-headedness. Don’t ignore any symptoms like dizziness, blurry vision, breathlessness or leg cramps. Stop as soon as you experience any of these symptoms, and assess whether you should continue with the workout. If the symptoms don’t abate quickly, or if you feel significantly weaker, don’t resume the run.
Make sure you drink adequate fluids through the day, and not just before your run.
By swimming I do not mean waddling in water, I mean an activity that should challenge your cardiovascular system, strengthen your core, and build various muscle groups—all this with a low risk of injury. Water provides great resistance to your body and its buoyancy accommodates the fit as well as the unfit. Water cushions stiff joints or fragile bones that might be injured by the impact of land exercises like running. When immersed to the waist, your body bears just 50% of your weight. Athletes use water exercises as rehabilitation after an injury, or to cross-train. Not only is swimming easy on the body, it’s a great way to get fit.
Swimming recruits all the major muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips and glutes, and because water offers 12 times the resistance as air in every direction, it really helps build strength. Water aerobics could be a good option if group activities are what you enjoy.
Swimming is a good fitness choice for just about everyone, especially those who have physical limitations or who find other forms of exercise painful. It is a good, full-body exercise that has low impact—as opposed to running, for example, where the impact of the foot landing on the hard ground has repercussions for all other parts of the body, especially the knee joint and the lower back. For people with arthritis, musculoskeletal injuries or limitations, or for overweight people, swimming is the perfect solution, as the water’s buoyancy acts like a shock-absorber for the body.
Once you have mastered the strokes, you could build a small routine for yourself. For example, start with two-three continuous laps followed by basic leg strokes for a minute, then just the arm strokes for a minute. Repeat the cycle 20-25 times for an exhausting and thorough workout. Spot-jogging in water too has great benefits as water adds resistance and you can build strength without injury.
This is a fun activity that could translate into serious sport. At a beginner’s level, just balancing on those skates will challenge your core muscles; the instability and the struggle to get even a few steps right will challenge the deep muscles of the abdominal region and lower back. Gliding on skates works your inner and outer thighs , glutes and calves. Once you get past the waddling, an hour in the rink can burn up to 300 calories and seriously challenge those reflex muscles.
In the gym
Aim for short and intense workouts. Workouts should last no more than 30-45 minutes. Focus on a mix of Interval Training and Circuit Workouts. Work towards an all-body routine, rather than a split one. A good workout in this format will increase your body’s metabolic rate and fat-burning capacity for a few hours.
Eat well, stay hydrated
If you’ve never paid attention to the amount of water you drink, then this is the time to do so—the heat will make you feel sluggish and dehydrated.
Any activity outdoors or indoors in summer will make you perspire and lose valuable minerals and salts. Pay close attention to hydration before, during and after any workout/sport and continue to hydrate through the day. Coconut water is nature’s own ORS. It contains more potassium than most sports drinks, contains all the necessary minerals, and best of all, is low in sugar when compared to fruit juices and sports drinks. Simple fresh lime water with a little sugar and a pinch of salt also works well. Fruit smoothies are a great way to pack in the nutrition and beat the heat. A banana and yogurt smoothie works well as a pre-workout snack, a strawberry smoothie is low in sugars and makes for an excellent drink at any time. You could mix two or more fruits, but remember some fruits, like bananas, contain excess sugar and need to be worked off. When you add sugar to your smoothie, you cancel out much of its health benefits, so keep it simple: just fruits, skimmed milk and yogurt.
Don’t skip meals. In winter, your metabolism is faster, as your body uses more fuel to keep itself warm, so you feel more hungry. In summer, the heat makes your metabolism sluggish, and prevents you from feeling the need to refuel constantly. Make sure this doesn’t lead to skipped meals—cut down on the amount of food you have, and certainly avoid heavy, greasy, spicy or fatty foods, but make sure you eat within 3 hours of each meal. Stick to salads, lightly cooked vegetables, curd, fish, etc. Skipping meals is one sure way of piling on the pounds, as long gaps between meals drastically slow down your metabolism.
Work out on vacations
Pick holidays that will keep you active and challenge another aspect of your fitness ability. Beach or mountain holidays are great examples.
In the mountains
White-water rafting: This adrenalin-filled adventure is a great way to enjoy the marvels of nature and challenge your fitness abilities. Set against breathtaking scenery, this activity provides an exhilarating experience for those who want to have a one-of-a-kind nature adventure. Constant paddling helps you develop strength in your arms and shoulders. The back is responsible for most of the power of forward propulsion. Any pulling motion engages the back muscles. Learning to remain in the boat in the face of rapids and waves helps develop core stability—the deep postural muscles that wrap around your middle like a natural girdle. The adrenalin rush releases endorphins—the feel-good hormones that push your mental stamina.
A 2-hour rafting trip won’t do you much good—opt for a longer, expedition that involves rafting for four-five days, and camping out at night. For most of these rafting trips, you don’t need previous experience.
Trekking: Perhaps the best way to learn and enjoy the challenges of nature. Uphill walking replaces your regular stepper routine, challenging your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. If you carry a backpack, then the excess weight challenges your core and increases the burning rate of your calories by almost 40% more than regular walking does. You could also use trekking poles and add a new dimension to your walking. The swing of the poles works your triceps, biceps and upper back muscles. The long hours of walking, of course, immensely boost your cardiovascular and fat-burning capacities.
By the seaside
The beach run: One of the most calorie-consuming workouts, running on sand is an excellent way to challenge your skills as a runner. Your legs and core have to work harder to help balance you and keep you moving on the uneven and sinking surface of the sand. It strengthens your ankles, foot arches and lower legs and there is less impact on the joints because the surface is so soft. It burns 1.6 times more calories per mile than road-running.
Water sports: Jet skiing and water skiing can challenge your core muscles at a level of tension which is impossible to realize in a gym environment. Water skiing involves a unique distribution of force throughout the body. You activate specific muscle groups to maintain the stable, upright posture necessary to smoothly glide across the water. It’s a great isometric workout for your biceps, triceps, shoulders and upper back muscles. It challenges the strength of leg muscle groups—including your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, glutes and calves—because maintaining a strong frame and stabilizing your legs on the ski’s narrow surface are musts.
Swimming in the ocean: This offers a very different challenge from swimming in the pool. Swimming in the sea requires you to adapt the freestyle stroke by reaching out at about a 45-degree angle. This helps you stabilize in the choppy water, and taps into the power of the lats (latissimus dorsi muscles) in your back, a much larger muscle group than the triceps which are targeted in regular freestyle. The waves and currents of the ocean offer stronger resistance for the body, burning 40% more calories than regular pool swimming does.
Sumaya Dalmia is a wellness consultant, fitness expert and owner of SD ACTIVE, a personal training studio in New Delhi.
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