Posted in Body

Walking is the New Cool—Especially During Extreme Heat

Most of the US is suffering from a heat wave right now.  Our bodies are amazing, but they are affected by the heat and those of us that workout outdoors have to modify our plans for our own good. In years past, during extreme heat, I’ve had two reactions … all or nothing. I’d either can all my workouts or I’d continue with the schedule I had because I was sure I was tough enough to handle it.

Neither of these approaches is good.

Totally canning all workouts is like not doing laundry for two weeks, you then have to play catchup the following week. But staying with your regular workouts is like driving at normal speeds in a snowstorm.

So what’s the happy medium? How can you respect your body in this heat? What is healthy if you don’t want to crank up the AC and undust the treadmill?.

Go out at the crack of dawn.

It will not kill you … seriously it won’t. Yes, you might have to go to bed earlier the night before … but avoiding the additional degrees of heat will be worth it. And you might see a scene like this.

Mornings are beautiful ....... Hopewell Furnace - Janet Oberholtzer

Slow Down.

You can not expect your body to maintain the same workout pace as usual … it is working harder to breath (especially if there’s humidity) to keep vital organs cool and to get oxygen to important places, like your brain. (I prefer to give my brain all the help I can)


Shorten your workout

Whether you are running or biking … cut your planned distance by a third or even a half. The heat will make your body work harder, so only going half the distance will still give you a good workout.



Walking is great exercise … and even in heat your body can keep up with your energy demands much easier than any other type of exercise. I recently heard Dan Buettner speak and he says, “Walking is not only good for our bodies, but also our brains and “walking is the best activity for longevity.”

Since hearing that, I value walking more and have enjoyed walks/hikes through a local state forest that I hadn’t explored before. I also make use of a treadmill desk which means I can walk while working in my comfortable temperature-controlled house.

And many others are also recognizing the value of walking…

Walking gets the feet moving, the blood moving, the mind moving.  And movement is life. ~Terri Guillemets

People say that losing weight is no walk in the park.  When I hear that I think, yeah, that’s the problem. ~Chris Adams

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~John Muir

And for Harry Potter fans: Nothing like a nighttime stroll to give you ideas. ~J.K. Rowling (spoken by the character Mad-Eye Moody)


With these adjustments, drinking gallons of water and hopefully some AC during the rest of the day, you can survive this heat wave. Then whenever the weather normalizes …  your body won’t have reverted to a couch potato, plus you won’t be physically and mentally exhausted from pushing yourself too hard through the heat.

With these adjustments, your body and mind will be ready to tackle your normal routine … with more energy than if you’d have taken the all or nothing approach.

How do you handle extreme heat? Any other suggestions?

For more great heat-related articles … visit The Heat is On at Runner’s World


  1. Alise Wright
    July 20, 2011 | 01:30 PM| Reply

    I’ve been getting out at 6am the past two times I’ve run and it’s already 70+ degrees out. Brutal. 

    This week was a huge bump up for me in the C25K program, but I’ve been doing a little bit less. It’s supposed to be 2 3 minute runs and 2 5 minute runs, but I’ve been doing 2 3’s & 2 4’s instead. I’ll probably do the real week next week when it’s supposed to cool down a bit, but I’m trying to give myself grace. 

    I definitely have to increase my water intake. I can tell that I’m not drinking anywhere near enough for this heat. 

    Thanks for the tips!

  2. Barbaranne Kelly
    July 21, 2011 | 12:22 PM| Reply

    Shorter and earlier this week for sure.   And I’m thinking a nice cold watermelon would be perfect today…  May even try making it into a slushie.

  3. Trackback: From Chair to Treadmill Desk | Janet Oberholtzer

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