9 easy ways to cool down after working out during a heatwave

Woman wiping sweat from brow after workout
(Image credit: Getty)

Working out in hot weather can be a challenge, and once you stop exercising you might struggle to cool down. That's particularly true if it's humid and your sweat won't evaporate quickly.

Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to get your temperature back to normal quickly and help you feel more comfortable fast. Here we've rounded up nine top tips for cooling down after summer workouts, from preparing sensibly to showering and rehydrating the right way.

Ready, set, sweat!

1. Time your workouts

It makes sense to avoid working out during the hottest part of the day when the sun is at its height. Aim for the cooler morning or evenings before starting your exercise session. If you do need to fit in a workout in the hotter part of the day, choose places that offer more shade. It's a great time to lace up your best trail running shoes and go exploring the woods, or head indoors to an air-conditioned gym.

2. Get cool before you go

If you are already feeling hot before you exercise then your body may struggle to cope, so it's a good idea to start out cool. Cooling down before a run or workout will help to slow the rate at which your body temperature rises while you exercise. A 2012 literature review suggested that pre-cooling may also lead to better performance (though past studies on the topic have been small).

For the best effects, aim to hydrate with cold drinks for a couple of hours before you exercise, take a cold shower or use ice packs to cool your temperature a bit.

Woman drinking water from bottle before a workout

(Image credit: Getty)

3. Time for a stretch

Stretching after exercise has benefits for your muscles and joints, but it also allows your heart rate to slow and your body to start to come back to a cooler temperature. 

The best way to cool down after a run or similar, especially if you have been working hard, is to slow your pace to a walk. Once you feel your heart rate has settled – you can check your sports watch for this – you should then spend some 10 minutes stretching muscles. 

In addition, taking time to stretch will  delay your desire to jump straight into a cold shower. A cold shower when you are hot will leave you even sweatier than before. Try it if you don’t believe us!

4. Try a hot-and-cold shower

A shower is a great way to cool your body after exercise and stretching, but if you stand in a cold shower immediately, you might find you sweat even more.

Take a shower after you've cooled down and make sure it’s not cold the entire time. A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that athletes who alternated soaking in hot and cold water after exercising experienced a significant reduction in their heart rate and blood lactate levels.

Shower head in bathroom

Alternating hot and cold water in the shower could help you recover more quickly (Image credit: Getty)

5. Strip down

Lying or sitting somewhere cool and without clothes on can help your body to cool
quicker. A spot of naked rest and recovery after a shower could be the best solution for a speedier post-workout cool down.

6. Try ice (but not too much)

A towel soaked in cold water, a bag of ice wrapped in a towel, or a towel that has been in the fridge or freezer can be useful for placing on pulse points to provide all-over-body cooling. Use the cool fabric on places such as wrists, ankles, inside the elbows and at the back of your knees.

Woman with towel around neck after workout

A towel soaked in cold water can help bring your temperature down (Image credit: Getty)

7. Cool your skin

Some skin lotions and ointments, such as those including ingredients like menthol or peppermint, can help you to feel cooler. You can also use after-sun, even if you've not  Try not to use heavy moisturisers as this may end up blocking pores, which will reduce effective sweating. You can looking for a light moisturiser with cooling ingredients.  

8. Have a drink – hot or cold

Most people reach for an iced drink to try to cool down after exercise, but a hot drink can also help you to cool off. It might seem strange but research backs up this idea and shows that in dry, hot climates, reaching for your hiking flask and having a hot drink can have cooling results.

It’s suggested that the heat from the hot drink triggers a sweating response. The reason why this doesn’t work in humid conditions is that for the cooling effect to work the body needs to be able to wear and this is not possible when your are already damp form sweat. Therefore, in hot and humid conditions, choose a cold drink. 

For even greater cooling powers, try peppermint tea, hot or cold, or add fresh mint leaves to your drink.

9. Fan yourself

Physically cooling your skin with a fan, whether it’s a hand-operated fan or an electric fan, will help with the cooling process post-workout.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.