When it comes to working out in the summer, some people are largely motivated by the idea of putting on a bathing suit. However, there are countless other sources of motivation to start or maintain a fitness routine. When temperatures rise and the humidity has reached the level of pure misery, here's how you can stay on track.
1. Get Creative With Your Workout Logic
It can take a significant amount of mental gymnastics to prepare yourself for an outdoor workout during the dog days of summer. However, motivational speaker Gregory Berge, founder of The Best Athlete You Can Be, starts with one tip when working with professional athletes: Reframe your mindset.
In this case, Berge suggests write down 10 reasons why it's actually great to train in hot and humid conditions. "I tell my athletes that, if need be, they can be imaginative," he says. "But they must have 10 reasons, because the quantity of positive focus in their mind must outweigh the initial quantity of negative focus."
Granted, coming up with these reasons can be a struggle. To get you started, Berge offers up some thought starters. "The sentence starts with 'it's good to workout in the heat because," he says. Then, fill in the blank:
- It develops my mental toughness, and I'll feel like a total boss afterward.
- The cold shower or jump into the chilly pool will feel amazing when I'm done.
- It's like a free Bikram or hot yoga class.
- I'm really, really ridiculously good looking in my new summer workout clothes.
- I have post-workout popsicles in my freezer for after it's over.
- I'll be able to sympathize with the millions of people who live without air conditioning.
- I will look like a fitness ad afterward.
2. Enjoy Summer-Only Activities
Winter is a time of hibernation for so many. Summer, on the other hand, is the time to socialize. Why not combine that with staying active? Alysa Boan, certified personal trainer, encourages her clients to join a summer league — like sand or water volleyball or golf for example — to stay fit during the hotter months of the year.
"These can be a great motivation when you're struggling to fit a 'workout' into your schedule," she says. It's the best time to enjoy the great outdoors, even if the temperature is quite swampy. Some other options, beyond simply enjoying a swim in the pool, include:
- Beach or poolside yoga
- Paddleboarding or SUP yoga
- Neighborhood pick-up basketball games
- Rowing or kayaking
- Yard work or gardening
- Hiking in a shaded forest
3. Soak in a Hot Bath
If you spend enough time working out in the heat and humidity, it turns out that you can train yourself to get used to it — and be better for it. A January 2016 study published in Sports Science Exchange found that heat acclimatization reduced physiological strain on the body, improved personal comfort and exercise capability and reduced the risk of suffering from a serious heat illness when exposed to higher temperatures.
It takes time and perseverance, though. It takes about one to two weeks of exercising in the heat for about 90 minutes a day to acclimate, according to their research. Don't want to go 90 days of torture in the sun? A December 2015 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that participants experienced similar benefits of heat acclimation by soaking in a hot bath after their workouts for six consecutive days.
4. Find Your Workout Song of the Summer
Music experts are quick to name a "song of the summer" each year, but their music tastes aren't necessarily your music tastes. So find your own song of the summer and feature it prominently on a summer workout playlist.
An October 2015 study published in Perceptual and Motor Skills found that women ran farther when listening to music that they liked. Another May 2015 review published in Medicine Science in Sports Exercise found that music during intense interval training had a positive effect on how much participants enjoyed the time spent exercising compared with people who didn't listen to music.
Read more: The Ultimate Summer Workout Playlists
5. Take Advantage of the Sun
The sun might be cause of your motivational conundrum, but it can also be a great source of motivation if you think about it the right way. Consider just how much vitamin D you'll absorb if you head outside for a workout and what that can do for your mood, suggests Ty Stone, certified personal trainer at Anatomy in Miami.
An April 2014 review published in Nutrients found that vitamin D has a positive effect on serotonin, a hormone that improves your mood, happiness and overall feelings of well-being. "This explains why being outdoors can make people happier," Stone notes.
Of course, you should always wear sunscreen when exercising outside. Luckily, a May 2019 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology determined that sunscreens don't inhibit vitamin D production when used correctly.
6. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
It's pretty hard to stay motivated when your body doesn't feel great, and hydration plays a significant role in that — before, during and after your exercise session. Proper hydration, particularly in hotter temperatures, impacts your health in myriad ways, says Carolyn Dean, MD, best-selling author of The Magnesium Miracle. This includes heart, kidney, and muscle and joint health.
The American Academy of Physicians recommends drinking 17 to 20 ounces of water two to three hours before exercising and another eight ounces 20 to 30 minutes before exercising. Then, drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise, and eight ounces in the 30 minutes after you exercise.
Like any other advice, though, you might need to adjust the amount based on how you feel. If you're doing high-intensity exercise in the heat for an hour or longer, add a sports drink to replenish electrolytes.
7. Reward Yourself Smartly
In an ideal world, a post-workout endorphin rush would be the only reward you need. But when the heat index reaches triple digits, you might need an actual reward to get you in those workout clothes — and that's OK — says Nick Rizzo, training and fitness director for RunRepeat.com.
"Don't worry if you occasionally dabble in a treat as a reward here and there, either," Rizzo says. "Do you know what is worse than the occasional off-diet treat as a reward? Your habit of going for a run four times a week being wiped out."
8. Remember Your Why
Let's be honest, there's always a "legit" excuse not to hit the gym. You're exhausted from a long day at the office. You don't have enough time. It's so easy to talk yourself out of exercising, especially at the height of a heatwave. A few small tweaks to your perspective may be key when it comes to finding the oomph to get off the couch, away from air conditioning.
An August 2019 study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that changes in mindset play an essential role in motivating people to work out. The major takeaway? Learning to view exercise as a stress reliever rather than a chore helped inspire participants to get more active. The same study also highlighted the importance of social support for sticking to regular exercise. Participants reported that they were more likely to sustain weekly workouts if they had encouragement from friends and family.
Better yet? Recruit your bestie to tag along on your workout. Sweating along with a partner can boost your mood, according to a September 2009 study published in Biology Letters, which found that rowers released more feel-good endorphins when they trained in a group versus alone.
- ACE Fitness: Considerations for Exercising in the Heat
- Perceptual and Motor Skills: Effects of Listening to Preferential Music on Sex differences in Endurance Performance Running
- Medicine Science in Sports Exercise: Music Enhances Performance and Perceived Enjoyment of Sprint Interval Exercise
- FamilyDoctor.org: Hydration for Athletes
- Nutrients: Vitamin D and Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Comparing Studies with and without Biological Flaws
- Sports Science Exchange: Heat Acclimatization to Improve Athletic Performance in Warm-Hot Environments
- British Journal of Dermatology: Optimal Sunscreen Use, During a Sun Holiday with a Very High Ultraviolet Index, Allows Vitamin D Synthesis Without Sunburn
- Medscape: Correct Use of Sunscreen Allows Vitamin D Production
- Biology Letters: Rowers' high: behavioural synchrony is correlated with elevated pain thresholds
- The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association: “Using the Multitheory Model to Predict Initiation and Sustenance of Physical Activity Behavior Among Osteopathic Medical Students”
- Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports: "Post‐exercise hot water immersion induces heat acclimation and improves endurance exercise performance in the heat"