Another long, hot San Antonio summer likely to take toll on bodies, minds

SAN ANTONIO – Long stretches of days when the temperature reached 100 degrees or more last summer have left an impression emblazoned in many San Antonians’ minds.

“Just excessive sweating, not to mention when hurricane season comes around, and it’s also very humid,” said Erica Kirk, who regularly conducts outdoor workouts through a company called Camp Gladiator.

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Kirk recalls hauling buckets of ice and a cooling fan each day to the North Side parking lot where she holds workouts to allow participants to get some relief from the heat.

With a hint of that kind of heat hitting the area this past Memorial Day weekend, she’s already preparing for the worst this summer.

During one workout session this week, Kirk brought out last summer’s staples — the ice bucket and fan — for campers to cool off.

“As a trainer, I really do have to think about how to keep people in a positive mindset when it comes to being outside this often,” she said.

While the participants in her daily exercise sessions choose to workout outdoors, others have no choice but to stand up to the blazing sun.

People such as roofers and road workers regularly spend hours sweating outside in the heat.

However, there is more to be concerned about than the toll brutally hot weather has on the body, according to Lesley Smith, LPC-S, a licensed therapist and owner of USAWA Wellness Center.

“Research does show there is a correlation between higher temperatures and increased irritability, anxiety and sometimes, even depression,” Smith said.

In extreme cases, it could also lead to aggressive behavior and violence, she said.

While it may seem like an old wives’ tale, Smith said there is hard evidence showing that weather affects our moods.

“The discomfort that heat creates within ourselves anyway, and you couple that with things like disruption in sleep or daily routines because of hotter weather,” Smith said.

The best way to prevent discomfort from resulting in a disaster is to cool down in more ways than one, she said.

Smith suggests literally getting out of the heat, staying hydrated and avoiding alcohol and caffeine, which can cause dehydration.

She also recommends finding ways to reduce the internal temperature.

“That can be anything from meditation to breathing exercises to progressive muscle relaxation,” she said.

Kirk, meanwhile, said her camp participants, who are used to weathering all kinds of weather, have no plans to move their workouts indoors.

The group, she said, would rather continue taking precautions than pause their fitness plans.

“Yes, the summers are excessively hot, but we are in South Texas. The heat is here to stay,” Kirk said.

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