Summer is not yet over.

And for those of us in the Midwest who know we “earn” our summers, there are still bike paths, parks and beaches waiting for us to enjoy in the great outdoors.

For those exercise enthusiasts who like to take their fitness regimens outside to enjoy the weather, the McGaw YMCA still has free outdoor fitness classes open to all. And Downtown Evanston is still offering Get Fit Friday classes at Fountain Square. (Check below for details.)

Designed to encourage physical activity and community wellbeing by providing greater access to fitness offerings in public spaces, these outdoor classes are meant to appeal to all ages. But as August temperatures can range from balmy to brutal, we also have some tips to make keep the experience positive.

A McGaw Yoga class stretches in Raymond Park. Credit: Photo submitted

“Proper preparation is key to a safe and enjoyable workout,” said Kim DeRaedt, Member Experience Director at the McGaw YMCA.

While exercising outside is a great way to mix up your routine and take in some new scenery, it’s important to note that fluctuating temperatures can affect your health. The U.S. sees hundreds of heat-related deaths each year. Even when it’s not life-threatening, heat-related illnesses can make existing health problems worse.

Humidity compounds the effects that high temperatures have on the body.

The human body is calibrated to work best at a particular temperature – 98.6 degrees. Fluctuations of a degree or so from the human body’s normal temperature of 98.6 degrees are normal, and our body has various systems in place to recalibrate.

When your body temperature starts to rise, you sweat and radiate heat to cool yourself down. But when temperatures are high and the air is humid, like during an August heat wave, those mechanisms aren’t as effective.

Furthermore, In high humidity when the air around is already full of moisture, sweat, which is how the body cools itself down, is slower to evaporate and our natural cooling systems just don’t work as well.

“Find simple ways to drink more water throughout the day,” DeRaedt said. “For example, add flavor to your water, set a reminder on your phone or add water rich foods to your diet. Prevent injuries and stay safe by wearing appropriate footwear for your activity and reflective clothing. Start slow and easy with a proper warmup and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workout.”

To stay cool and safe in extreme heat and humidity, it’s important to drink plenty of water and wear lightweight, loose clothing. Children and seniors are especially susceptible to heat-related illness because they cannot regulate their internal temperature as well.

Sign up for free classes

Downtown Evanston is winding down its Get Fit Friday program, but you can still sign up for a class.

And McGaw Y’s classes are free and will continue into September. But they require registration. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays there is Preschool Yoga, Oh Baby! Parent & Baby Fitness, and an Oh Baby! Stroller Workout each week in Raymond Park.

Additionally, both members and nonmembers can enjoy some of the Y’s most popular group fitness offerings with Pop-up in the Park classes. McGaw YMCA fitness instructors are in Raymond Park each Friday. Scheduled classes include HIGH Fitness, HIIT/Tabata, Yoga Flow and Zumba. Classes are free and open to those ages 13 and over but registration is requested.

For information about fitness classes, visit the Y’s site.

Belinda Lichty Clarke works as the alumni engagement director at Medill at Northwestern and is a freelance writer. After graduating with a master’s from Medill in 1994, Belinda worked in public relations,...