Staying Safe In Summer Heat

I’m going to be very honest: somedays, I rise each morning just to go to the gym in hopes of seeing David running so I might make fun of him.  And man, he doesn’t disappoint. However, through this sibling-like tough love, I found myself feeling a little bad for him as the temperatures headed into the triple digits.

Then, one day, David displayed some tell-tale signs of heat induced illness. I don’t like that. That’s not fun for anyone. It occurred to me that perhaps a little education on managing the heat when you take your training outdoors might be nice.

A little biology on your bodys natural cooling loop: your body progressively warms up internally as you move.  As your body temperature rises, you begin to sweat.  Sweat then  triggers evaporative cooling. For most people partaking in recreational exercise, this is enough.

BUT…we are in Tennessee. Its August. Its hot. Some of you are large. It may very well be the case that extra measures MUST be taken to safely play games in the sun. Not taking proper precautions can result in heat cramps, rash, exhaustion and even heatstroke. ALL of these conditions are completely wu-tang: nothing to f*ck with.

1.) Hydrate + Salt:  This is the oldest advice in the world, and its pretty vague.  However, I find it to be one of the most important preparation steps you can take. There is no hell like being miles from home and suddenly feeling the symptoms of your ill-prepared hydration method.  While I generally recommend drinking enough water (half your bodyweight in oz of H2o per day), this is not sufficient advice for an endurance athlete. As you run, you lose water, electrolytes, and trace minerals. Its important to replenish what is lost. I am a HUGE fan of 1st Phorms Intra-Phormance, as it has electrolytes, highly branched cyclic dextrin, and a very solid amino acid profile that aids in pre-hydrating or re-hydrating for your outdoor activities. If you are partaking in outdoor sports and do not wish to take in HBCD, you can always get poweraid/poweraid zero to help as well.  If you are in a race, don’t skip hydration stations. If you can, a camelback can literally be life saving. A note of re-hydrating: weigh yourself pre-run and post run. For every lb you lose during the run, drink 16oz of water.  Throughout your day, feel free to generously salt your meals. This salt will help cellular hydration as well as overall hydration.

2.) Stick to your pacing plan, or even slow down: yeah yeah yeah. Mile time. blah blah blah speed work. The truth of the matter is that heat adds a different stressor to your training that requires that you autoregulate.  Much like lifting, you don’t need to beat the crap out of yourself just because you are “feeling good.”  As you are acclimating to the increased temperatures, pay close attention to what your body is telling you.  Any signs of heat fatigued requires that you slow it down, or even stop.  Do not take this time to blaze through the hills. The standard acceptable acclimation time is two weeks, so try to play it safe during this period of time.

3.) Avoid hours in the direct sun: Running at high noon for an hour can be incredibly draining. If this is your only option, stick to routes with ample shade.  Take measures to avoid getting a sunburn, as the energy cost for nursing your skin back to health is surprisingly hefty.  Wear light-weight and light colored clothing that facilitate sweat evaporation. Wear at least SPF15, preferably the non-drip formula.

4.) Run indoors: this is actually my preferred training tip for shorter running days and speed work, assuming you have a treadmill or indoor track that allows you proper acceleration.  Doing the more daunting speed development drills in a climate controlled environment will ensure you aren’t battling the elements and meeting the objective of your training day.

5.) Be self aware: If you are large, heat dissipation is going to take a little more effort. A damp rag around the neck can help facilitate cooling after a run. Sure, you might look like a doofus with a scarf, but you will look like a bigger doofus if you die from a heatstroke during a recreational activity.  If you begin to feel signs of heat exhaust, slow down. If the condition persists, stop and seek aggressive cooling strategies immediately.  If you feel you are at higher risk for these conditions, sucker a friend into running with you.


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