Brandon Wertz knows a thing or two about staying fit, even in the heat of summer. A personal trainer who works out of World Gym in Palm Springs, a former marine, and the California Heavyweight Bodybuilding champion of 2017 (among other fitness awards amassed over the years), he makes it his business to keep up with the latest advancements in the world of wellness. It can be difficult to maintain momentum when the weather heats up, but Wertz has a few tips.
Wherever and whenever you’re exercising, bring an ample supply of water — especially if you’re engaging in outdoor recreation. Conventional wisdom dictates you carry a minimum of 1 liter per hour of hiking when in hot climates. When half your water is gone, turn back. In the desert heat, that can be the difference between life and death. And if you’re taking Fido along, make sure you double up, so your fur-baby has enough to drink, too.
Take it indoors with CrossFit, the high-intensity interval training regimen that has swept the country — and the desert. While results can be dramatic, Wertz recommends a cautious approach. This is critical when starting out, he notes, due to a high risk of injury. “It does have a bad rap for a lot of injuries. If you’re going to do it, you need to do your research on the CrossFit gym, do the research on the coach. If you don’t have [a coach] who has a lot of experience, it can be very dangerous.” Still, he doesn’t hesitate to sing CrossFit’s praises.
Of the many CrossFit “boxes” in the valley, Wertz is quick to recognize one as a favorite. The difference, he says, is in the instructors’ training. “I recommend Palm Valley CrossFit [in Palm Springs]. They’ve got the CrossFit certification and the Olympic-lifting certification … When people try to do the Olympic lifting and they don’t have proper coaching — you’re doing a lot of overhead work — that’s when you can have problems with the back and the shoulders. But with proper coaching, you’re not going to have those issues.”
Don’t push yourself too hard when you’re starting out, he advises. Allow your body to acclimate to the new physical challenges. Giving yourself time to develop proper form and gain muscle memory will reduce injury in all activities, from CrossFit to golf to hiking the South Lykken Trail.
“Your body relies on muscle memory, especially when you’re fatigued,” says Wertz. “If you don’t have that muscle memory, you’re going to get some injuries. Just take your time and be patient with it, and practice, rehearse, and drill.”
Flexibility for Strength
The Coachella Valley’s proliferation of yoga studios caters to all levels. With a focus on strength, balance, breathing control, and mental focus, it’s kind of a full-being workout. Power Yoga of Palm Springs offers a Bikram class in a room heated to up to 105 degrees; the heat allows for deeper stretching of muscles and natural detoxification as participants sweat it all out. Of course on some desert days, working out in that temperature may actually feel like cooling off.
The Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs offers weekly exercise classes for active adults, including chair yoga (a very gentle yoga practice), Zumba, tai chi, and Fit After 50. In Palm Desert, the Joslyn Center has a similar array of activities, such as mat Pilates, aerobics, and balance conditioning.
To cool off in the pool, head to Palm Desert Aquatic Center. Classes range from chair yoga and a program developed by the Arthritis Foundation to a boot camp described as the “ultimate hardcore 45-minute vertical water workout.”
Rise above the sizzling down-valley heat with a ride up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The rotating tramcar delivers you to a network of trails, from short nature walks and ranger-guided tours to the Summit Trail, which takes you to the peak of Mount San Jacinto.
For a great view of Palm Springs, head up the Museum Trail, which starts at — you guessed it — the Palm Springs Art Museum. A steep 2 miles round-trip with 850 feet in elevation gain, this route is the first segment of one of the toughest trails in North America, Cactus to Clouds.
Note that it’s advisable to hike during early-morning hours; local hoofers often rise before the sun to clock their steps.