23 July 2014

Tips For Working Out in the Heat

Last summer I tasked myself with  training for a half marathon - starting in the dead heat of summer.  I know, not smart.  In the beginning I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Even the short runs seemed almost unbearable in the blistering summer heat.  Not to mention, I almost always seemed to run out of water. I was not about to start running 11 miles on the treadmill, so I started to research ways to make it through  my long summer runs.

I decided to try out some of the tricks I learned.  Some helped and some did not.  These tactics not only work for runners, but really any outdoor activity.

1. Drink up!  When you know you are going to be working out, drink at least 8 oz of water every hour the day before and day of your work out.  It is important to continue to drink water even when you are not thirsty so that your body can store up the hydration.  You also don't want to me pounding the water shortly before the run because you may cramp up (and have to pee during your run!).  If you sweat a lot, you may want to consider drinking more than 8 oz.

2. Wear loose, light clothing Just the other day, I did not take my own advice and wore all black running on an 80 degree day.  Not smart.  The loose clothing will help with air circulation and the light color will not attract the sun like darker colors do.

3. Time it right Time of day is everything.  Running early in the morning is best, especially before the sun rises.  Once the sun starts to rise, so does the temperature - not to mention the pounding sun in your face.  Evening is also a great time to run.  Avoid from 12-3 PM because this is when the ozone levels are at their highest.  Not only is it hot, but you have an increased risk of sun burn.

4. Be picky with your trails  Pick trails with water fountains throughout the course. This way you won't have to worry about running out of water.  Also, pick trails that are shaded and along streams or rivers.  These trails will be much cooler and you have the option to splash your face if you feel you are beginning to overheat.

6. Slow it down  Slowing down your pace, especially in the beginning, will keep you from overheating.  When you push yourself to do your best, your heart rate increases and your body temperature rises.  Run by your effort, not your typical running pace.  Just like a car can overheat, your body can overheat as well.

7. Increase your electrolytes  Don't just drink water.  Consider adding drinks with electrolytes such as coconut water or sports drinks.  During your outdoor activity, you will sweat more than normal, losing a lot of sodium.  The electrolytes will help level out your sodium levels and keep you hydrated, avoiding hyponatremia (low levels of sodium in the blood).

8. Wear sunscreen You might not always realize how much sun you are getting while you run.  Lather on a sports sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to avoid sunburns.

Even with these tricks, it is still very difficult to beat the heat when the high is 98 degrees.  So listen to your body.  If you are feeling weak, dizzy, faint, have a headache, or begin vomiting, stop working out immediately.  You could end up with dehydration, heat stoke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or hyponatremia.  No workout is worth your health.  But stay safe and enjoy the outdoors while you can!

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