Exercising during the hot, humid summer months isn't easy for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for someone who's large and not yet fit. Not only is such a person's body not physically adapted to heat and humidity, but there are also psychological barriers to overcome.
As my client Jen put it, "Moving in the heat may be challenging for everyone, but it's truly daunting when you're wearing a hundred-pound coat of shame."
Many obese people battle not only the physical discomfort of moving their oversized bodies, but also their own worries about what others might think of them, plus the emotional conflicts that arise due to being more aware of their bodies as they exercise. Put it all together and you can understand how easy it can be to avoid exercise in the summer altogether.
But whether you're large or small, fit or unfit, avoiding physical activity will only take you further and further from your goal of being healthy, lean and fit. Especially if you live in Florida, summer is a long time to be inactive, considering that successful weight management depends on consistency — lots of consistency.
You certainly shouldn't ignore or dismiss the problems and conflicts you experience surrounding summer activity. Just the same, you must confront and conquer them to get the long-term results you want.
If you do, the payoff is tremendous, both physically and psychologically. Your body will adapt to the conditions, and you will lose weight, have more endurance and move with less effort. You'll feel proud of yourself, have more fun, feel accomplished and lose your fear of what might have gone wrong.
Being active in the summer doesn't mean you have to be uncomfortable or even that you have to exercise outdoors.
Active and fit people become experts at dealing with the challenges of summer by being creative. Here are some examples shared by consistent exercisers of how they stay active during the summer:
• A runner I know has to avoid the hottest times of day both because of temperature and because he's at risk of skin cancer. So he runs late in the evening instead of right after work. Not only are conditions more comfortable, but he looks forward to his runs rather than dreading them.
• A woman who used to avoid exercising in the summer uses YouTube videos to try new-to-her routines, from kickboxing to power yoga. Or while watching a movie at home, she does strength training using resistance bands, or does pushups and situps.
• Another client uses her calendar to plot strategy. She swims or walks early or late in the day, picking a walking route with plenty of shade — while still wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen. She carries water to stay hydrated and a washcloth to wipe off the sweat. She tries to think of something other than the heat, focusing perhaps on something pleasant that has recently happened to her. And on days when it's just too awful out, she goes to a gym.
• If time and money are no object, take a tip from a friend who spends his summer vacations hiking in the mountains. At home, he swims or just accepts that he's going to have a hot workout — and looks forward to a cooling dip in the pool afterward. Whether to exercise is not an issue — that goes without saying. The only decision he needs to make each day is how he'll exercise. He doesn't even mind sweating that much, but for those who do, he recommends workout gear made of special sweat-wicking fabric.
Whatever you do, don't let summer weather get in the way of your desire to be fit and lean. If you're going to live here, it's time to use your head, as many successful weight managers do, and help your body be the best it can be now.
Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at email@example.com.