How to cool down after a heatwave workout

Working out during a heatwave can feel pretty grim.

During extremely hot weather, the post-workout endorphin rush may be tainted by sweat, irritability and discomfort as our bodies deal with extra stresses.

‘The exercise you do, the air temperature and the humidity can all increase your core body temperature,’ explains physio and director of Complete Pilates Helen O’Leary.

It can be hard to motivate yourself to work out, especially when you’re worrying about the aftereffects of getting sweaty – how do you get back to your non-workout self and stop feeling the burn?

We spoke to some experts to get the best tips on cooling down after a workout.

Post-workout 

‘The most important thing is to give yourself time for a five to 10 minute cool down at the end of your workout,’ Helen tells Metro.co.uk. 

‘For instance, if you are running, walk for five to 10 minutes at the end. This gives your body time to slow down your heart rate, which will help your body temperature cool.

‘It should be active but at a lower intensity than your main workout. 

‘You might find this takes longer in the hot weather, so schedule it into your workout.

‘It also reduces the risk of you suffering symptoms of feeling faint or lightheaded after exercise in the heat.

‘It is not advised to suddenly stop after a workout.’

Matt Boyles, a PT and the Founder and CEO of Fitter Confident You, explains that this is because the longer and harder you’ve been working out and the hotter it is, the longer it will take to cool down, ‘so get in the shade, but don’t sit down for too long as your muscles may seize up’.

‘Some post-workout gentle stretches and walking will help the process here, and you should feel noticeably cooler within minutes,’ he says.

Specialist body movement trainer Caz Hitchcock notes that over time our body will cool itself down, so in the meantime, the ‘best thing to do is to put yourself somewhere cool’.

‘Relaxing naked is fantastic,’ she says. ‘I wouldn’t recommend forcing your body to cool down – such as throwing buckets of ice water all over yourself.

‘Your body is amazing and highly intelligent. You have an amazing regulatory system so just the same as you would stretch out after your workout, allow your body to cool itself down.’

But Caz does suggest a quick fix to cool down quickly.

‘A fast way to feel cooler is to stick your tongue out and roll your tongue into a tube,’ she explains. ‘While your tongue is rolled, take a deep, controlled breath in and then close your mouth, hold, and slowly breathe out through the nostrils. Then repeat.

‘If you can’t roll your tongue, another technique is to make your tongue as flat as you can, touching the inside of your bottom lip with the tongue tip whilst breathing in slowly air between your tongue and top lip, and again as before closing the mouth and exhaling through the nostrils. You want the air to go over your tongue, and you will feel it is really cool.

‘In yoga, this is called Sitali Pranayama, which means cooling breath.’

Ice or cold flannels of water placed on key points of the body, where the circulation is closest to the skin’s surface, such as the back of the neck, wrists, and ankles, can also help reduce body temperature.

Cool down

‘You should give yourself five to 10 minutes’ cool down’ time for your heart rate to settle, says Helen. ‘But it can take longer for your body temperature and skin temperature to cool. 

‘You might find that you feel the heating effect of your workout for longer than usual. This is not unsafe for your body as long as you are hydrated and not experiencing any symptoms of significant over-heating or heatstroke.’

Helen warns that people should be aware of heat exhaustion, especially if ‘you can’t cool down within around 30 minutes’.

‘If you can’t cool down in that time, then it can progress to heatstroke, which should be treated immediately,’ she says.

Heat Exhaustion symptoms:

  • A headache
  • Dizzy or confused
  • Reduced appetite or feeling sick
  • Excessive sweating with pale and clammy skin
  • Fast breathing or pulse
  • Cramps in your arms, legs and stomach.
  • A temperature above 38 degrees
  • Being very thirsty

‘If you are showing signs of the above, you want to look to cool yourself down,’ says Helen. ‘The best thing you can do is move into a cool place and lie with your feet slightly raised.

‘Drink plenty of water or sports/rehydration drinks and try to cool your skin. You can use a fan or cool water as well as cold packs around the armpits or neck. You should be able to cool yourself within 30 minutes.’

If you continue to feel unwell after 30 minutes, you may have heatstroke and should call 999. 

Symptoms can include:

  • Increased muscle cramping
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Showering

‘Wait 10 minutes before having a shower to let your overall temperature reduce a bit,’ Mark says. ‘You can have a cold shower, but reduce the temperature slowly.

‘Start at a normal, warm-ish temperature and every 20 seconds, turn the dial down a bit to reduce the risk of shock.’

It is best to wait until you have stopped sweating before jumping in the shower. If you want to speed it up, then drink some water to help rehydrate your body.

Helen also offers some post-shower tips to keep cool that include:

  • Use a cooling moisturiser on your skin. After-sun is good for this.
  • Drinking a cold menthol drink as menthol feels cooling.
  • Having a cup of tea, supposedly this helps some people feel cooler

Water

You need to hydrate post-workout.

‘Following a workout, you’ll need to replace all the fluid you lost through sweat,’ say personal training experts at Origym.

‘For every kg of weight you have lost, make sure you drink at least 1.5 litres of water.’

PT Matt Boyles suggests drinking water just ‘slightly’ cooler than room temperature. This is because ice water can be ‘tough on the digestive system’.

Dehydration

‘You are dehydrated when your body loses more fluids than it has taken in,’ explains the experts at Origym. 

‘If it’s left untreated, it can become a serious issue. Dehydration can occur more easily if you have been in the sun too long and sweated too much during exercise.’

Symptoms of dehydration in adults include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Dark yellow and strong-smelling urine
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • Urinating infrequently, e.g. fewer than four times a day

They warn: ‘A pharmacist can help with dehydration by recommending oral rehydration sachets. However, if you have serious dehydration symptoms such as the below, call 999 or go to A&E.’

Extreme symptoms:

  • Feeling unusually tired
  • You’re suffering from confusion or disorientation
  • Dizziness that doesn’t go away when you stand up
  • You haven’t urinated all-day
  • A weak or rapid pulse
  • You have fits or seizures

Extra tips

With temperatures soaring from the heatwave, reducing the chances of sustaining a heat-related illness is crucial, warns Head Coach and Tactical Trainer Farren Morgan. 

‘For this purpose, I recommend that people focus on keeping their body temperatures low before their workouts, either by applying cooling packs or being in a room with air-conditioning before exercising outdoors,’ he says. 

‘I also like to stay hydrated with cool water and fresh juices at least an hour before starting my workout to slow the rate at which my body temperature increases during my outdoor exercises. 

‘Implementing these cooling methods allows me to perform at my best and improve my performance even during high temperatures of the day.’

And remember, take regular breaks and keep workouts short but sweet to keep safe during the hot weather.

Best products to help you beat the heat

Shopping: This factbox contains affiliate links. We will earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.

Please note that prices were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed.

Dr Sam’s Flawless Daily Sunscreen

You need a decent sunscreen, and this one is great (Picture: Dr Sam’s)

Buy it for £29 from Dr Sam’s

Stackable Ice Lolly Moulds

Ice lollies are a summer staple (Picture: Amazon)

Get the set for £24.48 at Amazon.

Portable air conditioner

Full-size air conditioners can be expensive – but this is a cost-effective solution (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £43.99 at Amazon.

Pro Breeze Oscillating 40-inch Tower Fan

This powerful fan has loads of cool features, including a remote control and eco settings to reduce energy consumption overnight (Picture: Amazon)

Reduced from £99.99 to £79.99 at Amazon now.

Elegear Cooling Blanket for Night Sweats

It’s far too hot for a duvet, and this hypoallergenic blanket is made with special fibres to wick sweat and regulate your temperature as you snooze (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £32.99 at Amazon now.

Ergoflex 5G mattress

A mattress that works to keep you cool at night? We’re sold (Picture: Ergoflex)

Buy it for £445, down from £809 from Ergoflex

Kookaburra Waterproof Garden Sun Shade Canopy

If your garden is a sun trap, this cools the area and protects from 98% of UV rays (Picture: Amazon)

Reduced from £89.95 to £74.98 at Amazon now.

Black and Decker Portable 3-in-1 Air Conditioner, Dehumidifier, and Cooling Fan

It’s an investment buy, but with 9000 BTU cooling capacity and an Air Filtration system, you’ll be glad you bit the bullet if you run warm (Picture: Amazon)

Reduced from £399.99 to £372 at Amazon now.

SIMIYA 3 Pack Seamless Anti Chafing Boy Shorts

If your thighs rub together and chafe in the heat, these will be a summer saviour (Picture: Amazon)

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KLIM Wind Laptop Cooling Pad

Four cooling fans mean your laptop won’t overheat when the mercury rises (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £24.97 Amazon now.

4 in 1 Quiet Portable Air Cooler

Use this as a small desk fan, evaporative air cooler, air humidifier, and night light (Picture: Amazon)

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Luxear Cooling Pillowcases 2 Pack

Arc-Chill TOUCH Technology absorbs and dissipates heat, which helps improve quality of sleep (Picture: Amazon)

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RATEL USB Table Fan

Use in the car or at your desk for a fresh breeze (Picture: Amazon)

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Self-cooling mat for pets

Pets need to be cooled down too (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £10.95 at Amazon.

Jumbo inflatable pool

Inflatable fun to make the most of your garden (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £34.99 at Amazon.

Cooling towels

Stay chilled for up to 3 hours (Picture: Amazon)

Get a set of six towels for £20.99 at Amazon.

However, when the rising mercury becomes more irritating than enjoyable, reach for these items for some sweet relief.

Pro Breeze Turbo Desk Fan

Cool down quickly without noise with this whisper-quite desk fan (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £59.99 at Amazon.

Misting sports bottle

Mist in the heat while you stay hydrated (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £16.37 at Amazon.

Retro Pineapple Ice Bucket

Cool your drinks in style (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £29.93 at Amazon.

Chillmax Pillow cooling gel insert

Say goodbye to night sweats by placing this over your pillow before you sleep (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £9.95 at Amazon.

Duronic ice cream maker

Nothing better than an ice cream on a hot day – especially when it’s homemade (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £33.99 at Amazon.

onaEz Cooling Sleep Mask

Cool for 20 minutes for cold therapy – it’s also great for relieving the pain of tension headaches (Picture: Amazon)

Get it for £15.99 at Amazon.

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