By Kristin Sidorov
This summer's heat and humidity have been pretty brutal. When it's been ages since the temperature dipped below 85°F, it can be hard to find the energy to fan yourself, let alone get in a good workout.
But don't let Mother Nature get in your way. By modifying your daily routine to suit these long, hot days and using a few tricks to your energy up, you'll find your pep and stick to your fitness goals straight through fall.
1. Cool down for better zzzs.
Health and energy start with a good night's sleep, but research shows that on average, most of us struggle with falling and staying asleep during the summer months. Hot, humid weather can prevent our bodies from dropping to the temperature needed for sound sleep. But by using a cold pack (or a bag of frozen veggies) to cool down before you hit the hay, the body can adjust and start producing melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. Just 15 minutes of using the pack on your wrists, neck, and in the crook of your arms and knees can help you drift off.
2. Start your day fresh.
Research shows that the scent of citrus has a powerful effect on our mood and alertness. One whiff can induce beta wave production, clearing out the mental fog and irritability that can come with sticky, hot weather. Start your day with a healthy dose of orange, lemon, grapefruit, or any other citrus for an instant pick-me-up. Just be sure to enjoy the aroma as much as the taste of the tangy, sweet fruit. Or take a few moments to smell some citrus essential oils before heading out the door-you'll notice a pep in your step instantly.
3. Work with the heat, not against it.
It's pointless to force yourself through a miserable (and dangerous) hard workout when the weather is hot-before long, you'll zap all of your energy and motivation. Instead, try modifying your routine to work with the heat. Take up swimming, a perfect full-body (and refreshing) workout. Go for a brisk walk instead of a run for about 8 to 10 minutes, or do an interval workout with frequent breaks. Better yet, go for a nice hike in the woods, where there's plenty shade. And try schedule all outdoor workouts for the morning or evening, when it's the coolest. Whatever you do, work within your limits and keep it up-breaking your routine entirely is a surefire way to lose your ambition.
4. Stretch it out.
Stretching tight muscles is a great way to beat the heat. In fact, research shows that a quick stretch can help raise and keep up energy levels by at least 45 percent for one hour. Stretching stimulates alertness in the brain and helps increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart and lungs. If you're starting to drag, take just 60 seconds to wiggle your toes, roll your shoulders, stretch out your neck, reach toward the ceiling with your hands, and flex your feet-you should feel rejuvenated in no time.
5. Fuel up with the right foods.
When it's scorching hot, getting the right amount of nutrients and hydration is key. Choose fruits and veggies with a high water content, like watermelon and cucumbers, for optimal hydration. If you work outdoors or are active and sweating often, keep your sodium and electrolyte levels in mind-pickles and olives are a healthy source of salt to help retain water. And many of us, especially women, see our folic acid and iron levels dip during the summer, which can be a huge energy drain. Eating more meat, poultry, and eggs can help bump those key nutrients back up. Avoid spicy foods, diuretics (like coffee, soda, and alcohol), and big, filling meals.