How to Exercise in the Summer – keeping cool while keeping fit
How to exercise in the summer heat can be a conundrum! Is it healthy to work up the same kind of sweat in the summer months as it is in the middle of winter? Maybe… maybe not… read on to find out some easy hacks for how to exercise in the summer.
Hey Foxes-of-a-certain-age, let’s wax about how we move–or don’t move–our bodies this summer!
Recap: Summer is Pitta Time
Ayurveda identifies the summer season as the season of pitta. You might remember from previous blog posts and pod episodes, that pitta dosha is created from the elements of fire and water. We know what fire does for us–it provides heat, transformation, and light or illumination. And the water element adds smoothness and flow to the picture.
According to ayurvedic medicine, each of the three doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) are responsible for managing certain aspects of our physiology. As our primary source of heat, pitta governs our digestion, metabolism, and thermogenesis. Our fire is responsible for how we process foods, metabolize perceptions and emotions, and how we discern between what is appropriate or good for us versus what is not. This is our fire element in all of its digestive glory.
You would think pitta would be responsible for those pesky power surges that take you from zero to sweaty-hot-mess in under 60 seconds … but nope. That’s actually vata that fans the fire, or pushes the heat around, but we’ll save that for another episode.
The characteristics of fire are fairly easy to identify.
Hot for sure. Also light, sharp, mobile, intense, and a little liquidy as well (think acid, remember the water element).
The Rule Of Opposites
If you’ll recall from previous posts, a guiding principle in applying the wisdom of ayurveda to your life is to follow the rule of opposites:
Like increases like and opposites heal, or balance.
So with that in mind, let’s fire up our sharp intellect and discern what types of movement practices are best suited for this sharp, brilliant, and hot summer season and what’s best suited for our sharp, brilliant, and oh-so-hot readers.
When Pitta Gets P*ssed
When pitta is aggravated, the quality of heat increases in the body and mind. This might look or feel like inflammation of all kinds, indigestion and/or GERD or reflux, and pretty much anything that ends in “itis”–your gastritis, esophagitis, cystitis, tendonitis, etc.
With regards to our mental and emotional tendencies, when our fire is running too hot and we build too much heat, it often shows up as strong emotions like anger and resentment, intolerance and frustration, and even perfectionism.
Why is this important? If not addressed early, long-term pitta imbalances often lead to inflammation, hypertension, gastric distress–peptic ulcers–and burnout.
So let’s talk about balance. Particularly, let’s talk about balance in our movement practices.
Here’s a scenario: you’ve got a 50-something babe, she’s a high-powered, wheeling-and-dealing real estate agent. She’s athletic, disciplined, and above all, competitive. Successful, driven, and goal oriented, she’s probably training for a race, hitting the Crossfit gym 3-4 times a week, and taking a hot yoga class on her lunch break.
If we look at the rule of opposites, we can ascertain that this woman is burning up. She’s stoking an already hot fire with practices that are only adding fuel to the flames, and potentially heading for burnout. What we need now are practices and rituals that are cool, steady, and done at appropriate hours of the day.
So how to exercise in the summer?
Early morning is best, when there is dew on the grass and the temp is as cool as it’s going to be. Definitely avoid training in the midday sun and heat. Early evening is okay, but not our first choice because it can spike your cortisol and keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Think water. Swimming is a great practice for our Pitta Princess. Kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing. Grab your friends for a game of pool volleyball or head offshore for a bit of snorkeling.
Hiking is a nice way to add the earth element and cycling has a smooth, steady rhythm to it. Both of which are balancing for not only the intensity of summer sun, but also the intensity of a pitta-dominant Fox.
What About Yoga?
Physically and physiologically, Ayurveda identifies pitta’s home base to be in the small intestine, liver, and solar plexus. So when it comes to asana practice, consider poses that will “open” and expand these areas, the theory being that these asanas can release excess heat and tension. Side bends and twists fall into this category as do backbends–particularly those that are done prone on the floor, because we connect with the earth element and that supports keeping the fire contained.
If you know a Moon Salutation sequence, you’re on the right path. Shiva Rea has an exquisite Moon Salutation that is lovely; it’s cool, rhythmic, and stays low to the ground. Rather than dive into a hot yoga class that emphasizes multiple surya namaskars, opt instead for a smooth and sweet flow that mobilizes your joints, gently stretches your side body, and brings a sense of ease to your nervous system.
As The External, So The Internal
Both Ayurvedic and Circadian medicine advocate for seasonal living–syncing with nature’s ebbs and flows. As we honor Mother Nature, we should honor our own nature and as the seasons change, so too should our practice. This is how we find our zone and stay with it.
The Big Four
We have four specific suggestions for the hot fox who is already dealing with the heat of hot flashes:
- Don’t exercise in the middle of the day when the sun is at its’ peak
- If you’re indoors, keep the lights–and the heat–a bit lower than you might otherwise. This will counter not only the hot, sharp, intense qualities of summer, but those that are present in the pitta constitution.
- One of the fastest and most effective ways to keep yourself cool before, during, and after exercise is through monitoring your breath. It’s a practice called pranayama. Here is one we especially like: Chandra Bhedana, or Moon Piercing Breath. We can do an entire episode on breathing techniques down the road if there is interest–we love this shiz!
- Finally, intention is everything. Leave your competitive spirit at the office and try practicing at 80% of your max. Just for the summer. It makes a difference!
We hope you found some nuggets that you can use in your own movement practice and got some helpful tips for how to exercise in the summer. Let us know what you think!
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