Gyms are closed for the time being and, with travel restrictions across the UAE now partially eased, heading outside is the solution many are turning to for their daily workout.
However, since it’s only going to get hotter in the weeks to come, here are some ground rules for witnessing the fitness outside during the summer months.
1. Wear the right gear
When heading outside, make sure you are dressed for the occasion. That means athletic wear with lightweight materials. “Avoid cotton and wool,” says Faisal Aasam, managing partner of Evolve Sports Solutions. “If you’re working out during the day, lighter colours are preferable, and at night, colours don’t matter [when it comes to the heat]."
Those who sweat a lot can benefit from headbands and wristbands, and athletic socks to avoid blisters are a must. During Ramadan, ensure you are dressed modestly.
2. Stay hydrated
Chris Beavers, personal trainer at Ultimate Performance Dubai, recommends drinking three to five litres of water a day and being conscious of hydrating when exercising in the heat.
“When working out outdoors in high temperatures, the risk of overheating is high. If you choose to go out in the heat, be aware of hydration. If you are thirsty, that means you are already dehydrated,” he says.
Marcus Smith, owner of InnerFight CrossFit gym recommends hydrating before, during and after a workout session. During Ramadan, he suggests hydrating at home ahead of a workout. “If this doesn’t work for you, I would suggest taking your workout to a private location so that you can hydrate throughout.”
If you are fasting, try and schedule your workout timing post-iftar so you can keep hydrating, which brings us to the next point ...
3. Choose your workout times carefully
The most important thing to remember when working out in summer is to choose a time when the sun is not at full strength.
During Ramadan, trainers recommend iftar and post-iftar times as the best for exercise sessions because it's cooler, and those fasting will be able to drink water.
However, if you are unable to head out in the evening, the early morning is also a good option.
"Speaking on behalf of some of my clients, some who are fasting, but are more experienced, are better able to get a workout in at night before breaking the fast, and they often see good fat-loss results. However, for strength workouts, people will generally see better results when they are fuelled so this should be reserved for the morning. It’s really about determining your fitness goals and understanding how you can adapt your schedule to achieve those goals,” says Smith.
Another benefit of working out early in the morning is that you’re less likely to get distracted by everyday tasks. “Early morning workouts are harder for people when they first start, but it eventually gets much easier. The benefit of a morning workout is that you are more likely to do it, whereas if you leave it until the end of the day, other plans can interfere. So, the chances of you not completing your workout when left to the end of the day are infinitely higher,” he says.
4. Eat foods high in electrolytes
Also opt for nutritious foods with a high water content when exercising outdoors. “Your body loses a lot of electrolytes when sweating. Dates, yoghurt, bananas, coconut water, watermelon and avocados are some things to incorporate into your diet that are high in electrolytes,” says Aasam
5. Opt for lighter activities
If you are determined to work out in the summer heat, Beavers recommends keeping it simple by indulging in lighter activities such as walking or a light jog. “The simplest and most effective way to stay fit is to just start moving. You can increase your energy expenditure dramatically through what we call Neat (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), activities that aren’t formal exercises, but that burn calories, such as walking around a park, gardening, walking the dog, playing with the children outdoors.”
Intense outdoor exercises and sessions should be avoided in the heat of summer.
6. Warm up and cool down at home
Depending on the time you are working out, trainers recommend limiting time spent under the sun. A simple way to do this is to warm up and cool down while inside at home.
7. Find shaded areas for body-weight training
Just because you can go outdoors doesn’t mean you need to stray far from home. Some of the best workouts can be done in one spot. “Body-weight workouts can be done any time,” says Beavers. “An example of a great body-weight workout for anyone who wants to improve their fitness and lose fat would be as follows:
“Three to five rounds (or more if you want) with one to two minutes rest after each full circuit: squats, push-ups, walking lunges (each leg), plank rotations (each side), split squats (each leg) and V-sits.
Beginners can do 10 reps each. Intermediate athletes can do 15 and professionals can do 20 or more.”
Simply find a shaded area outdoors for circuits such as these, or, if it's really hot, do them inside.
8. Work out with a training partner
Working out with a family member or someone else from your household will encourage both of you to work harder. It’s also important to ensure that the other is staying safe, hydrated and healthy when under the sun.
9. Know when you’ve pushed your limits: signs to look out for
Smith says it’s also important to know when to terminate the workout and get back home. “If you start to feel dizzy, have issues with your vision, notice changes in your skin tone, experience nausea or feel unwell in any other way, you’ve probably overdone it and need to take a break.
"These are the pretty common signs; they appear for a reason so pay attention to them and listen to your body. You’ll know when you’ve pushed it.”
10. And finally, in the times of Covid-19 ...
Aasam stresses that just because it’s possible to go out again, doesn’t mean you should – especially if it comes at the cost of safety.
“I want to stress that you can have an amazing workout at home. The ongoing situation has forced a shift in the fitness industry, with many establishments providing excellent at-home training resources, many of which are free. I would encourage people to tap into this.
“If people are keen to train outdoors, I’d urge them to adhere to government regulations, be responsible, safe, wear a mask and protect themselves and the wider community. This will ensure that the privilege of working out outdoors is something we can continue to enjoy.”
In the interest of being safe in the current environment, Smith also encourages people to maintain a safe distance from others out and about – and to bring a small bottle of hand sanitiser, if possible. “People tend to touch their faces a lot when exercising as they sweat, so you want your hands to be as clean as possible," he says.