Friday, July 22, 2011

Beat the Heat

If you're anywhere in the Northeast, where it's not even 10AM yet and it's already 90 degrees, you're suffering right now.  For those of you with a training schedule, you're suffering even more.  No one likes being cooped up in the house when they're supposed to be running, myself being one of those people.  But when the heat index is dangerously high, you need to plan and prepare thoroughly in order to make sure you beat the heat.

We're bound to get more heat waves like these in the upcoming weeks, so here are some tips in order to stay safe while working out in the heat.  Please do not take working out in 90+ degree weather lightly.  If at any point you feel dizzy, faint, or nauseous, stop exercising and seek help.  

- First things first, carry your cell phone in case of emergencies.  Make sure someone knows where you'll be working out or see if you can convince someone to work out with you.
Get your workout in before 9 or even 10AM.  The earlier you go, the cooler it'll be outside.  Yesterday I told myself I could do my workout in the evening, but it was even hotter then because the sun was still out and it had been in the sky the entire day, heating the track and the air.  Scorched earthworms littered the track, it was gross.  So workout early, you won't roast and it'll be a great start to your day (you could even go back to bed!).  It was still in the 90s when I walked Shadow at 11:00PM last night.  Yuck.  
- Bring a sports drink with you while you're exercising.  Water will not cut it, you will need something to replenish your electrolytes - the salts that you sweat out that give you energy and keep your body in equilibrium.  Fill your bottle with ice or get one of those fancy Camelback insulated bottles.
- Do not wear cotton.  Cotton will sop up the sweat on your body and keep it there.  You want something that's made with a polyester blend that will wick sweat away from your body and will dry quickly, keeping you cool.  Many running tanks and shorts are also ventilated to keep your body cool.
- Don't push yourself.  When working out in extreme conditions (yes these are extreme), your goal should be to finish, not to create a PR.  You're raising your body's heat tolerance, which will help you in the long run.  So if your times are slightly slower than usual, don't sweat it (pun intended).
- If there's a heat wave where numerous days are supposed to be over 95 degrees, spend days doing strength training in the gym or cross training in the shade.  My favorite cross training exercise?  Swimming (more on that soon).  Do not spend more than 2 days in a row working out in excessive heat, you will destroy your body.
- Cool down.  The first thing you're going to want to do is jump into a pool or a cold shower.  Do not.  You will cramp up.  Imagine a charlie-horse cramp that lasts for hours (I've seen it happen, it's not pretty :P).  So after working out, walk around to get your body close to its normal temperature.  Stretch in the air conditioning to work out your fatigued muscles.  Take a luke warm to cool shower and then you can jump in the pool or take an ice bath.  Your body has been working out in extreme heat, it needs to be brought back down to its normal temperature.

The bottom line is to just stay safe.  Again, if at any point you feel dizzy, nauseous, or faint, stop exercising.  Doing part of your exercise is better than doing nothing at all.  You could also take advantage of your friend's pool or find a tennis court in the shade.  Run or bike in the park or on a trail.  There are lots of ways you can still stay active safely during heat waves like this.  Just make sure you do it early in the day and you stay hydrated before, during, and after your workout.  Be safe and have fun!

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