Amy Postle/Fitness MagazineBy Leslie Goldman
Don't let these 8 workout woes sabotage your summer fitness plans.
There's nothing like the sweet relief of peeling off a sweat-soaked sports bra after a long outdoor workout. But those little red and white bumps that crop up along your bra line? Not so much. If the bumps are white or colorless and don't hurt, they're probably blocked sweat glands, says David J. Leffell, M.D., a professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine and author of Total Skin: The Definitive Guide to Whole Skin Care for Life. Try airing out the area as much as possible, and alternate between racerback and tank styles to avoid irritating the same area of skin. If the bumps are red and tender, they're likely pimples; apply an OTC acne treatment with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to dry them out, he says.
Wet swimsuits, kayaks, sweaty gym shorts? They can irritate your vagina, says Melissa M. Goist, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Ohio State University Medical Center. "The vulva likes to be dry," she says. Prolonged moisture and heat-from hanging around in a wet swimsuit or gym shorts, or sitting in a water-logged kayak for hours-can disrupt the vagina's delicate pH balance, tipping the scales in favor of bad guys like yeast and other bacteria and resulting in irritation, itching, discharge, or odor. Swimmers, if it's not hot enough for the sun to dry you off quickly, change out of your bathing suit and into clean cotton undies. Just got back from a bike ride or rollerblading session? Wash up in the shower (no soap necessary) and pat dry.
Related: Your Summer Skin Rehab Plan
In its elemental form, chlorine is so toxic that it has been used as a weapon in chemical warfare! That won't shock diehard swimmers, who often swear that their pool has declared war against their skin, hair, and eyes. This greenish-yellow gas is necessary to disinfect the water, but in the process it may discolor and dry your locks.
Save your strands with a swim cap, making sure to rinse well in the shower immediately after swimming, and protect your eyes from stinging and tearing with well-fitting goggles. As for your skin, follow your laps with a moisturizing bodywash and slather on a fragrance- and alcohol-free lotion. Dr. Leffell also reminds you to wear sunblock when swimming outside-your back is especially at risk when you swim crawl or breast stroke -and suggests a UV-protective bathing suit (Google "sun protective clothing" for options).
Balmy nights beckon to you, "Come outside and play with me!" But a combination of driver fatigue and poor vision puts evening exercisers at risk. In fact, traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day, according to the National Safety Council. "At the end of the day, the car is always going to win, so it's your job to get out of its way," says Dimity McDowell, co-author of Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving-and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity. She suggests running against traffic and keeping a wide shoulder if you're jogging in the street (some runners prefer the softer pavement to sidewalks), and encourages runners, bikers, and rollerbladers to make eye contact with drivers, especially at crowded intersections, to ensure they see you. (For the same reason, steer clear of cars' blind spots. If you can't see the driver in the rearview mirror, she can't see you.)
Wear light colors-white, bright pink, yellow-and clothing with reflective features. "I always like to have five reflective hits," McDowell says. "My running shoes, shirt, shorts, and hat." You can also purchase reflective tape and wrap it around your arm or make a giant X on your shirt.
Tan lines around your ankles are hardly the worst consequence of skipping your sun block on a midday jog. According to a recent data review in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, is on the rise among young women ages 15 to 39.
"It's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security while exercising outdoors in the summer," Dr. Leffell says. "You're enjoying what you're doing, but you're also wearing less clothing and may forget you're exposing yourself to more sun than usual." Always apply a sweat-proof, water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 (look for avobenzone or zinc oxide as ingredients) every two to three hours. Experiment with brands until you find one that doesn't sting your eyes when you sweat. (Dr. Leffell recommends Coppertone Sport 100.) Don't forget the tops of your ears, scalp, hands, tops of feet (for cyclists), and any décolletage peeking through your V-neck. "We're also seeing a lot of precancerous changes in the lower lip in younger adults," Dr. Leffell warns, "often in runners, boaters, and people doing persistent activities in the sun." Slick on an SPF 30 lip balm.
Should you slack off and get burned, Dr. Leffell suggests you take aspirin or Motrin, soak in a tepid oatmeal bath, and "moisturize, moisturize, moisturize."
Related: Discover Your Skin's "Real" Age?
When runner and author Dimity McDowell found herself on the third leg of a July triathlon-the 6.2 mile run-feeling woefully dehydrated from the swim and bike portions, she knew she was in trouble. "My legs cramped up. Every step takes the effort of four steps. I hadn't drunk enough and my performance suffered."
To avoid her fate, always be sure to down 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours prior to heading out. Once you're cycling, running, or playing tennis/softball/soccer, swig 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes, adjusting for heavy sweating. McDowell suggests filling a water bottle three-fourths full the night before and freezing it; take it out a few hours before your run or bike ride and fill with water. "You'll never regret carrying it, but you'll always regret not carrying it," she promises. Afterwards, drink 16 to 24 ounces for every pound you've lost. An easy way to know you're not drinking enough: You're thirsty and/or your pee is dark (it should be pale yellow).
If you're struck by heat cramps-spasms in your calves, core, or arms-slow down, cool off, and drink a sports beverage to replenish electrolytes. (Make your own by dissolving 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon table salt in a quart of water.) More severe symptoms such as nausea, headache, and intense sweating signify heat exhaustion. Immediately seek shelter in a cool place, remove as much clothing as possible, and drink cool (not ice-cold) water, applying it to your body as well. If you or a workout buddy experiences disorientation or seizures, call 911. Those are life-threatening symptoms of heat stroke.
Allergies & Bad Air
To your nose and lungs, a beautiful warm day could be a virtual Dante's Inferno: Extreme temps can trigger asthma attacks. Grass, trees, flowers, and pollen stand poised to activate allergies. And when sunlight hits air pollutants like car emissions and gasoline fumes, it gives birth to smog-ground-level ozone that can irritate your airways, leading to wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. "Add exercise, and you may become even more symptomatic," says Holly Benjamin, M.D., a pediatric sports medicine specialist at the University of Chicago. (According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 80 to 90 percent of individuals with allergic asthma will develop exercise-induced asthma with vigorous exercise.)
The good news? "Asthma is very treatable," says Dr. Benjamin. If you've already been diagnosed with allergies or asthma, use your inhaler as directed. "I'd rather have people keep exercising outside and use an inhaler than stop working out," she says. If working out in nature makes you cough, feel short of breath, or feel strangely out of shape, see your internist or an allergist: You may have exercise-induced asthma and might require treatment. And before heading out, check the day's air quality; hit your gym on Code Orange days.
Related: 12 Tips to Make the Most of the Weight Machines at the Gym
While running along Lake Michigan on a sweltering Chicago day, Aishia Strickland casually glanced down and received a shock: "My fingers and hands had ballooned to the size of Sherman Klump's!"
Here's what happens: In an effort to cool off during a hot workout, your body perspires. To speed up the process, blood flow is directed to the extremities. Hand and foot swelling can result from the heightened blood flow.
Dr. Benjamin says this natural reaction isn't dangerous but warns that if the symptoms persist or worsen into numbness, tingling, or loss of feeling, you should go to the doc. Remove your rings before your run if they bother you, and avoid lacing your shoes tightly. You can also exercise in the cooler morning hours, when your body won't need to release as much heat.
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Amy Postle/Fitness MagazineBy Leslie Goldman