Sizzling summer temperatures can put the brakes on the best-laid plans to remain active. When heat and humidity spike, much of our energy is used to cool our bodies via sweating, which diminishes the energy we have to devote to other activities. If this summer you've spent more time lounging in a hammock in "lazy afternoon" mode and less time being active, you can still easily and safely boost your energy, get some exercise, and enjoy activities with the whole family. The key is to use creativity and common sense.
Think about time differently. Regard every moment as an opportunity to move more and make healthy choices. When you understand the cumulative power of all the choices you make in a day, you'll understand that when it comes to your health you are more in control than you may think. Over the course of a summer, you can make significant and lasting improvements in your health and energy levels, one minute and one choice at a time.
Make mindful choices. Be mentally prepared to live like a lean, healthy person. Do everything with the purpose of edifying your body and your health, as well the health of your family. This means making conscious decisions, and the key is to stop and think at every turn. Rather than choose a chemical-laden soda, why not enjoy a glass of seltzer water mixed with fresh fruit juice? Instead of burning the candle at both ends, give your body some extra rest with an afternoon nap. Shop together at the local farmer's market, and prepare a lovely meal as a family. Nix the video games and spend time with your kids visiting a zoo, the aquarium, or a museum.
Sneak activity into your weekend. Weekends packed with chores and errands can still be active. At the market rather than push a cart, carry a basket in each hand. Don your running shoes and literally "run" errands. If you normally use a drive-through car wash, instead do it yourself: grab a bucket, a hose and a sponge, and start scrubbing. Your arms won't know if you're lifting weights or washing a windshield, but they will register the effort you put forth. You can turn any activity into exercise by increasing the intensity at which you do it. Plant a beautiful garden and spend hours tending to it. When you watch TV, do anything but sit: wash dishes, dust the room or sort through your sock drawer--just keep moving.
Create a healthy habit. Run when you could walk; walk when you could ride; stand when you could sit; sit when you could lie down; climb stairs when you could take an escalator or elevator. When stuck at your desk, get up for water breaks and, during long calls, pace the room using a cordless phone. Done once, these things mean nothing. Done hundreds of times over the course of a summer, these habits can mean the difference of several unwanted pounds and a new level of energy.
Satisfy your appetite with lighter fare. Summer's the perfect time to enjoy fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Fill up on foods with high water content that are packed with nutrients but don't weigh you down. Digesting a heavy meal is taxing on the body and will make you want to sleep under a cabana rather than take a brisk walk on the beach! Slice a watermelon and enjoy it with your neighbors or make fresh juice popsicles with your kids. Put away the pot roast pan and dust off your salad spinner!
Drink more water than you think you need. To cope with heat and avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water. Don't wait until you feel thirsty--by that time you may already be dehydrated. Drink water on a schedule, and if you don't feel like drinking, do it anyway. As you sweat you need to immediately replace fluids, as being even slightly dehydrated will zap your energy.
Reinvigorate your summertime socializing. Summer is a time when you'll want to be out with friends anyway, so build activity into your social time. Gather some friends and form a walking group. Schedule early morning or evening treks when temperatures are cooler. Use the time to not only get some exercise, but also do some bonding. Pack a picnic and hike to your favorite spot to dine with your significant other while you gaze at the sunset. Get a map of the biking trails in your area and try a new trail every weekend with your buddies.
Try activities that only summer can offer. Ditch the treadmill and take a run in your local park. If you can't run on pavement, run on the grass alongside the pavement. Join a boot camp class and get your exercise fix outdoors. Play paddle ball or toss a Frisbee in your yard. Join a pick-up game of basketball. Go for a swim and move as briskly as you can. Play kickball with your kids. Learn to water ski or snorkel.
Put these ideas into practice and you'll not only boost your energy and your spirits, but you'll also stay active and develop habits to take into a healthy fall and beyond!
Tara Marie Segundo, M.A., is a New York City-based fitness expert, personal trainer, motivational strategist, and radio talk show host with nearly 30 years experience in the fitness industry. She holds a Master's Degree from Columbia University in Applied Physiology and focuses on helping clients break free from destructive patterns so they can reach their physical and mental peak and lead healthy, happy lives. Visit her at www.TaraMarie.com and read her blog on Red Room.