For most of my adulthood at the beginning of each year, I fell into the mental trap of “getting healthy and in shape for the summer.” I wanted to have that perfect beach body, even if we never made it to the beach, and feel comfortable wearing cute summer outfits.
I never succeeded.
Life would get in the way, I would get distracted or frustrated with my diet and exercise and so I would enter summer either at the same weight I was at the beginning of the year or a little bit heavier.
Since I made significant lifestyle changes and stuck with them, I have found that I am finally entering the summer the way I always wanted to: beach ready and several cute outfits.
Still no available beach and rarely do I get out of my “mom uniform” because cute outfits and a toddler do not mix.
But I am experiencing something I’ve never before: staying fitness-minded and motivated in the heat. As I discussed on Monday, having MS and living in a hot and humid climate is not a good combination. I am finding that my motivation and my ability to stay fitness-focused is waning more than it did in the cold winter months.
What do I do? Well, I have to make some adjustments to accommodate this unforeseen speed bump.
The main thing I’ve learned is that my choices had to change in the summer months. This can range from the food I eat to the time of day I exercise to the intensity of the exercise I commit myself to complete.
If there is a day where I know I won’t be able to exercise for a while due to the heat, I have to adjust my eating to reflect that. Rather than eating heavier or caloric-dense meals, I adjust to more frequent and lighter meals throughout the day.
If we expect a high heat day or extreme humidity, then I will make sure to get out earlier in the morning to avoid dealing with either. 6:30am is usually a great time to get out, beat the heat and the traffic, and be home in time to say “good-bye” to Ash before he heads to work.
If it’s too hot or humid out to exercise, then I move any sort of workout indoors with the A/C blasting or a fan on me if I need to do something with intensity. I also need to make sure that keep drinking water throughout the day.
The hardest choice to adjust is the first one: I love to eat. So if I am having a craving for something particularly heavy, potatoes of some sort, I want to indulge it. I try to find ways to compromise or satisfy the craving with something else. Popcorn works best, but a cool piece of fruit will do in a pinch.
Remembering to drink enough water can also be a problem for me – so by carrying around a water bottle or cup can help remind me to stay hydrated. I need to keep drinking water if I am going to keep exercising throughout the hotter months.
I’ve talked about the benefits of light exercise and on some of the more hotter days, that’s all I am able to do. I learned something about myself last week: if I do too much exercise in the heat, despite hydrating thoroughly, I will get massively dehydrated.
I didn’t put two-and-two together until after I ran my 10k and dealt with a massive headache despite all the water I drank before, during, and after the race. Drinking water is crucial to breastfeeding and my body was taking all the water I consumed and putting it towards making milk rather than cooling and healing me.
So I have to make adjustments and different choices with this in mind. My next major race is a half-marathon in early November, but there is still a chance that I will deal with a headache after the race due to the fall heat in the South.
How do I cope with this? Continue to hydrate ahead, during, and after the race. I also have to be more mindful of the impact high-intensity exercise will have on me despite all the work I do to prevent it. I am hoping that the dehydration issue will be less of a problem by next summer because Jai is weaned, but only time will tell.
Remembering that any sort of exercise is good for me, so I am not critical of myself if I don’t meet all of my fitness goals for the day, will help maintain my motivation. Even if Ash, Jai and I go for a walk in the evening – it counts for exercise. I will just have to adjust my dinner/snacking habits for the rest of the day.
Keeping a positive mindset also helps me through the summer months. I’ve recently been reminded that self-compassion is still extremely important when it comes to dealing with my personal health journey. Being self-compassionate is easy to forget or set aside when life gets rather hectic or overwhelming, but it’s the most important healthy thing I can do for myself.
Because without being compassionate towards myself I am unable to maintain my fitness or eating habits. If I am unable to make it out to exercise for the day or even do some indoor work, then being gentle with myself will help me stay focused and not overeat or get frustrated enough I lose my focus.
So if I have to go a day or two without exercise or even a week, being okay with that and not getting upset with myself will be the best way to jump back into the routine when I am able.
Healthy living begins within, no matter the time of year.
What do you do to maintain your health for the summer? How does the heat impact your health or exercise goals? Leave your stories and thoughts in the comments.
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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography