It's summer time, the sun is blazing and the temperatures are hot enough to cook an egg on the hood of your car! So if you plan to exercise in the heat, I want to give you a few pointers to help you avoid crashing and burning (pun intended).
As many of you know, I recently competed in the Hawaii Spartan Beast race, which is a grueling 13 mile trail run with an additional 30+ obstacles. While I have raced in Hawaii for many years and am comfortable with the heat, I experienced something I have never felt before. Approximately 8 miles into the 13 mile race, my body shut down. I couldn't get my heart rate to slow down, I had a hard time focusing, my vision was blurry, and my muscles were on the brink of cramping. I had drank plenty of water at each water station, included ample amount of electrolytes along the way, but I was pushing so hard that my core temperature was through the roof! So I literally had to stop in order to allow myself to recover, which has NEVER happened to me before! After I walked to the next water station and was able to rest in the shade for 8-10 minutes (which does not help you win races) I was able to continue back on with my run at a much slower pace and finish.
There are different levels of heat exhaustion, which every person who exercises in the heat should be aware of so they can determine how serious the situation.
Heat Cramps Cause: Dehydration leads to an electrolyte imbalance Symptoms: Severe abdominal or large-muscle cramps Treatment: Restore salt balance with foods or drinks that contain sodium
Heat Fainting Cause: Often brought on by a sudden stop that interrupts blood flow from the legs to the brain Symptoms: Fainting Treatment: After the fall, elevate legs and pelvis to help restore blood flow to the brain
Heat Exhaustion Cause: Dehydration leads to an electrolyte imbalance Symptoms: Core body temperature of 102° to 104°F, headache, fatigue, profuse sweating, nausea, clammy skin Treatment: Rest and apply a cold pack on head/neck; also restore salt balance with foods and drinks with sodium
Hyponatremia Cause: Excessive water intake dilutes blood-sodium levels; usually occurs after running for four or more hours Symptoms: Headache, disorientation, muscle twitching Treatment: Emergency medical treatment is necessary; hydration in any form can be fatal
Heat Stroke (the most serious!) Cause: Extreme exertion and dehydration impair your body’s ability to maintain an optimal temperature Symptoms: Core body temp of 104° or more, headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse, disorientation Treatment: Emergency medical treatment is necessary for immediate ice-water immersion and IV-fluids
(Source: Runner's World)
How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion
If you plan to exercise in the heat, then take the necessary steps and plan ahead.
1. Train early morning or late evening when it's cooler
2. Drink plenty of water the day before and during exercise
3. Wear light colored clothes
4. Douse yourself in water as you exercise to help keep your body temperature down
5. Be sure to take in sufficient electrolytes because you will be losing a lot through the increase in sweat.
However, don't let the summer temperatures deter you from your workouts. Start off slow and get yourself comfortable to exercising in the heat. If you compete in any events, then sooner or later you will find yourself in this situation (like I did); therefore, train in the heat so you know what to expect.
And if all else fails, you can join the other pathetic souls trudging away on the treadmills in the nice air conditioned gyms.