ENERGY EXPRESS

Fitness alert: Hot tips to beat the heat

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The hot and hazy days of summer are here and fitness fans are working up a sweat all over the place running, biking, playing tennis, inline skating, golfing, walking you name it. Whatever your summertime sport or activity, if you want your body to work well and stay cool, you need to pay attention to the following:

Avoid peak sun. Try to exercise in the cooler parts of the day: early morning or late afternoon/after work. If it's extremely hot and humid, slow down your pace and try something less stressful, such as swimming.

Wear a sun visor to keep the sun off your face, or a hat that allows air to circulate. Avoid unvented hats that cover your entire head and trap body heat.

Protect your eyes with proper sunglasses that screen out the harmful ultraviolet and blue rays. Wraparound glasses may also keep bugs and wind out of your eyes, a must if you're into serious biking.

Protect your skin. According to conventional medical wisdom, we should use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. The experts say to slather it on about 30 minutes before going out and keep applying it every two hours or so, especially if you sweat or swim.

A minority view wonders how healthy it is to use a lot of commercial sunscreen most often, a mixture of chemicals and additives and then bake it into your skin. Keep in mind that the rate of skin cancer has not gone down since people started coating themselves in sunscreen. In fact, it has gone up. Way up!

It's a longer story than I can go into here, but the take-home message is, yes, don't fry your skin or overexpose yourself to the sun, but consider non-sunscreen remedies such as clothes, shade, hats and common sense.

Wear loose, light-colored clothing of fibers that allow for evaporation or perspiration. Synthetic fibers designed to keep you cool and comfortable are really worth the investment. Avoid tight clothes and certain fabrics, like nylon, that don't breathe.

Drink, drink, drink. If you don't know this by now, you don't deserve to be outside. Drink lots of fluid before, during and after you exercise. If your urine is bright yellow, you're not drinking enough. If it runs clear, give yourself high marks for proper hydration.

Use your breath to energize all your summertime activities. And breathe fully, from the diaphragm, not the chest, allowing your belly to rise and fall with every inhale and exhale. The harder you exhale really blow it out! the more air you'll get to your lungs on the next inhale.

Seek shade. Play in the shade as much as possible. If constant sunshine is your only option, and it's a very hot day, it's a good idea to rest for a few minutes in the shade. Remember, you are supposed to be having fun when you work out. Forcing yourself to continue when you're hot and miserable is beyond goofy, it's downright dangerous.

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