While most of the rest of the country is facing record-breaking temperatures, we are fortunate enough to be having a milder summer…so far. Extreme temperatures throughout the world are creating challenges for athletes of all levels.

This past spring, during the annual meeting for the American College of Sports Medicine, more than 200 experts gathered for a presentation to discuss the 2020 Olympic games scheduled to occur in very hot and humid, Tokyo. The global increase in rising temperatures requires a rethinking of how to handle outdoor athletic events to keep athletes safe and performing well.

Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the country, with an average temperature change of 4.22º between 1970-2018. It recently reached temperatures in the 90s for the first time in history. Oregon is not immune to these rising temperatures with an average annual temperature increase of 2.1º.

At 104º, our bodies are susceptible to heatstroke. Presently, we don’t have a way to measure body temperature to avoid such occurrences. There are, however, things that can be done to help minimize your risks while exercising outdoors. Here are five.

What Should Athletes Do to Safely Exercise Outdoors?

  1. Time your activities. Our high desert climate provides us with cooler evening and early morning temperatures. Take advantage of them and choose the coolest times of the morning and evening to exercise.
  2. Pivot based on temperatures. On hot days, adjust your exercise based on the current temperatures. For example, if you are going on a long hike, prepare for rising temperatures and adjust your start time and pace accordingly. Consider going for a swim at the lake or pool instead of an afternoon run in the sun.
  3. Monitor hydration. If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Don’t let the dry throat feeling be your guide for when to drink. Regardless of the temperature, you should be getting half your body weight in ounces of water daily. When you exercise, the volume of water you need increases. The color of your urine can help tell how you are doing. The darker the color, the more dehydrated you are. Light or pale yellow is good.
  4. Wear sunscreen. Your external health is just as important as what is going on internally. A sunburn decreases your ability to regulate body temperature. Protect your skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen anytime you are outside and reapply as needed based on activity and duration.
  5. Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothes. The color of your clothing is also important. Choose light colors to reflect the heat rather than darker colors that absorb it and make you hotter. Wear a hat whenever possible to protect your face from the sun. 

Enjoy the warmer months safely by being mindful of when, where and how much to exercise. Heat-related illnesses can be prevented. Do what you can to make sure they don’t happen to you or those you love.