Fitness in the summer: tips to beat the heat
Senior Airman Christian Manning, Air University A4/6 Logistics and Programming computer programmer completes a set of diamond pushups at the Maxwell Gym Annex Wednesday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)
Fitness in the summer: tips to beat the heat

by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz
Air University Public Affairs

7/20/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- With summer temperatures consistently above 90-degrees accompanied with high humidity, exercising outdoors can be difficult for students and permanent party personnel stationed here.

The heat and humidity poses challenges for many, especially for those who are not from the southern region. This applies even more so when it comes to attending physical training and completing the required Air Force physical fitness test.

"Since the beginning of June, I'm aware of at least 20 cases of heat-related incidents on Maxwell and Gunter of varying degrees," said Lt. Col. Geoffrey Gibbs, 42nd Air Base Wing chief of safety. "Some were self-identified and minor but unfortunately, some had to be transported for medical treatment. Thankfully, none resulted in long-term health issues or fatality."

Gibbs said people who are new to the area exercise good judgment and personal risk management when they plan their workouts. He said to assess your physical conditioning, the climate and how the environmental conditions changed compared to those you were accustomed to previously.

The chief of safety also recommended the following tips:
  • Stay on top of your hydration. Sports drinks can help, but they also contain large amounts of sugar and other counterproductive ingredients. Water is the absolute best choice.
  • Have you gotten muscle cramps in the past? Know how to recognize your symptoms and stop to recover before you get to a point where you can't recover.
  • Instead of the midday or late afternoon run you normally enjoy, look for an early morning or late evening opportunity where the temperatures aren't so high and direct sun exposure is reduced.
  • Consider reducing the intensity level of your workout, even more so if you are new to this climate. With temperatures and humidity on the rise, consider changing your routine.
  • Start easy, don't push too hard and know when to quit early at least until you are acclimated.
  • If you have to be out in the sun, wear loose, light and light-colored clothing and wear plenty of sunscreen.
  • If you know you'll have to test in the summer heat, start training early. Build your strength and stamina gradually to withstand the harsher conditions and pass the Physical Fitness Assessment comfortably without having to push your limits.
  • Understand the heat impact, know your limits and know when to stop before it's too late. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are definite possibilities here.
  • Work out with a wingman! Push each other to do better while ensuring each of you remains safe.
Senior Airman Christopher McMahon, Air University A4/6, Logistics and Programming computer programmer, had a tip of his own for individuals preparing for their PT test this summer.

"I wouldn't recommend working out in the gym all of the time," said McMahon. "If you spend your time building your cardio or working out in a climate-controlled environment, you are setting yourself up for failure when you take the actual test in an environment that is not so friendly."

McMahon said he is not originally from this area, but working out and doing PT in Alabama's climate prepared him for testing, helping him earn a score in the "excellent" range.

Though Gibbs feels earning an 'excellent' score is important, he said doing so safely without endangering your health is just as important.

"Ultimately, each individual bears personal responsibility for ensuring their own safety," said Gibbs. "Whether it is self-identifying in a group setting before they begin to have issues, or recognizing that you're reaching your personal limits early during individual workouts and stopping before it is too late, take that extra minute or two to self-assess and do the right thing."