Stay Fit, Fed and Faithful this Summer

luddingtonWe have plenty of reasons to look forward to summer—beach getaways, grilled meats and chilled beverages. If you live in a northern state (like me), the warm weather is a welcome vacation from frigid temperatures, treacherous icy roads and an outer armor of coats, hats and mittens. It’s a time to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful creation God has given us.

While we aim to make the best of summer, it does have the potential to hinder some of those “fit, fed and faithful” habits we have spent all year developing. Here are some tips to make sure you stay on track.

Fit in the summer
At the beginning of spring, we can’t wait to take our workouts outdoors to enjoy the scenery, fresh air and pleasant temperatures. Then, summer hits. High temperatures and humidity become easy excuses not to exercise. 

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), at temperatures below 80F there is little or no danger of exercising under normal circumstances. As the thermometer creeps beyond the 80F mark, you begin running the risk of fatigue, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Try to work out during the early mornings and evenings when temperatures are lower and the sun’s rays are less dangerous. Wearing less clothing (as well as lightweight, loose-fitting, light colored clothing made from a moisture wicking material) can provide a greater skin surface area for heat to dissipate.

It’s also more important than ever to hydrate before, during and after you exercise in the summer.  ACE recommends 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise as well as replacing sodium, potassium and chloride you lose through sweat, especially if your activity exceeds two hours.

You may also find motivation in training for various races and other outdoor activities offered in the summer. Visit www.active.com for a listing of opportunities in your area. Other outdoor events are also often posted on the websites of local parks and campgrounds.

Fed in the summer
Fire up the grill, but be aware of the amount and types of food you eat. The US Department of Agriculture MyPlate guidelines recommend that half of your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables, roughly a quarter with grains (at least half should be “whole” grains) and the remaining quarter with protein (meat, poultry, seafood, beans/peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds). Round out your plate with a side of low-fat dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream or pudding).

Fortunately, the summer is ripe with delicious fruits and vegetables, so filling half of your plate healthfully is easier than ever. In addition to the fresh produce section at your supermarket, support local farmers by visiting a farmers market or buying a share of a CSA (community sponsored agriculture) directly from a farmer. A listing of farmers’ markets can be found at http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/.  More info about CSAs can be found at http://www.localharvest.org/csa/.

While it may be easier to find those healthy fruits and vegetables, other summer fare can end up becoming more of a temptation. Beware of calories that may be lurking in some of those summer time favorites—frozen drinks, ice cream, creamy salads, s’mores… It’s okay to indulge occasionally. However, many of these tasty treats come with a high caloric price. Proceed with caution.

Faithful in the summer
Father Andrew Czajkowski, the pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Davison, Michigan, has a quote he often uses this time of year: “There’s no vacation from God.” These words remind us that while we may be on vacation or traveling far from home, we should still set aside time to pray, worship and find a church to attend while we’re gone. He points to the website http://www.masstimes.org as a helpful resource for Catholics to find a parish as well as specific times mass is celebrated.

In addition to attending church (or other forms of worship), you may want to scout new opportunities to enrich your faith. Perhaps take advantage of religious sites along your travels, retreats that offer outdoor components or unique opportunities to live out your faith (maybe through a community service project).

Perhaps you have heard of the acronym ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication) as a way of incorporating important elements into prayer. Throughout these summer months, look around you at the majesty of God’s creation. Recognize all the little blessings he bestows on you this season— the way the sunshine feels on your body, the sound of laughter as children race along the beach and the smell of campfires, barbecues and freshly cut grass.

Take it in.

And give thanks for the glorious summer God has given you.

Fit, Fed and Faithful

Kimberly A. Laux, MA, is a freelance writer for several print and online publications and a group fitness instructor certified through the American Council on Exercise. She currently teaches in the Communication & Visual Arts Department at the University of Michigan in Flint.

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