Summer is a great time to take your martial arts and cross-training exercises outside. Working out in the fresh air on a sunny day can shake up your routine and add some fun to your training.
Summer outdoor workouts offer excellent new challenges for your mind and body, but they also come with some challenges in terms of staying safe and healthy. Especially when it gets hot.
Keeping that in mind, we’ve put together the following tips to help you have the best and safest possible outdoor martial arts workouts.
In addition to your training gear and any martial arts equipment you’ll need for your outdoor martial arts, you’ll also want to load up your gear bag with a few summer essentials. Pack sunscreen and reapply as necessary. Pack a full water bottle (or two!) to keep you hydrated. (You can even add an ice pack to keep your water — and everything else — as cool as possible.)
“Exercising in hot weather puts extra stress on your body. If you don’t take care when exercising in the heat, you risk serious illness. Both the exercise itself and the air temperature and humidity can increase your core body temperature,” the Mayo Clinic explains in their primer on heat and exercise.
“To help cool itself, your body sends more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn increases your heart rate. If the humidity also is high, your body faces added stress because sweat doesn’t readily evaporate from your skin. That pushes your body temperature even higher.”
Because of this added stress, working out in the heat can come with a risk of problems like cramps, dizziness, fainting, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. It’s important to keep an eye out for symptom of heat-related illness to keep yourself safe.
What to look out for:
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of heat-related health concerns include muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, weakness, fatigue, headache, excessive sweating, dizziness or lightheadedness, confusion, irritability, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, and visual problems.
If you develop any of the above, you should stop your workout, find a cool place, rehydrate, and try to lower your body temperature. If your symptoms don’t improve, you might need to see a medical professional.
When you’re working out with a partner or a group, keep an eye on your training partners, too. And help them out if they develop any symptoms.
The key to getting your best hot weather workout possible and preventing heat-related illness is to train smartly. A hot and humid day isn’t the best time to push yourself to your limits. But it can be a great time to responsibly challenge yourself within those limits. Be aware of your current state of physical fitness. Take note of how the heat and humidity are making you feel. And plan a workout that takes those factors into account.
If you can, work out in the morning or evening to avoid peak afternoon temperatures. Following a long range weather forecast can also help you plan your workouts around particularly hot days. If there’s a heat warning, you might need to find a cool indoor location for your workout instead. And if it’s really too hot, there’s no shame in taking a rest day.
Alternate Outdoor Workout Ideas For Hot Days
Days that are too hot for a maximum effort workout or martial arts training session are an excellent opportunity to focus on technique, mindfulness, and steady state cardio. Dialling back the physical intensity of your exercises and drills allows you to focus on mind/body awareness and refine and techniques that have been tripping you up in interval training and heavy sparring.
Flexibility and mobility training: Flexibility and mobility are key components of martial arts. A large but stable range of motion in our joins can add power to our strikes and open up new dimensions in our defence and attacks as grapplers. And yet many martial artists don’t dedicate quite as much time to this component of fitness as we could. A hot day is a great chance to make up for lost time. Take a mat outside and try 20-30 minutes of yoga, Pilates, or animal movements.
Shadowboxing: Hot days are also a perfect time for some very focused and purposeful shadowboxing. Check out our blog post on how to shadowbox, pack a water bottle, and go. You can also take your boxing gloves along if you’d like to add a little resistance to your shadowboxing workout. Just as long as you keep your level of exertion within safe levels for the heat.
Slow rolling and light sparring: A warm spring or fall day is perfect for taking your mats and martial arts gear outside for an open roll or some moderate sparring. When things get hot, though, it’s a good idea to bring your intensity down a bit. That doesn’t mean that you’re taking it easy. You’re just redirecting your energy. Slow rolling and light sparring allow you to focus on techniques in a different way and work through issues that leave you repeatedly stuck during more intense training. They’re an important part of any good martial arts training — and a great way to spend a summer day.
Partner Drills and Technique Training: Speaking of slowing down and bringing a new focus to parts of your game that you might be struggling with, a hot day is also a great time to grab a partner, put down some mats, and methodically work through positions and techniques. If you’re working on gi training, you can also wear a lightweight martial arts uniform to help keep you cooler.
Walk: If it’s too hot to do any formal training but not quite so hot that you want to rest, there is another option. Walking is often underestimated as a form of exercise but it’s an essential form of steady state cardio. It can also function as a gentle mind/body workout if you want to work on your focus.