By: Joe Giandonato
Though we’re in the midst of another sizzling summer, in which many US cities are eclipsing triple-digit temperatures, many people are still braving the heat with unwavering dedication to their workout programs. Though their dedication is certainly admirable, they could potentially be risking their health as they train in such sweltering conditions.
Three very simple measures can be taken to stave off potentially life-threatening heat related illnesses, all the while helping you get the most of out of your workouts.
Don’t expect to beat the heat by hitting the ground running. Acclimatization is necessary to prevent initial excessive losses of sweat and salt loss, which occur in lesser adapted individuals and could potentially prove fatal. Additionally, the body’s inability to dissipate heat generated from exercise in hot weather could lead to heat stroke.
Tip: Allow your body to adjust to the warm weather. According to a 1998 study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, acclimatization occurs between 7 ‘” 10 days at the onset of exposure. While it would be ideal to train in a controlled environment, or commence an outdoor training or running program prior to summer, you can prepare your body to work more efficiently in the heat, by reducing your training volume and intensity and attempting to schedule your workouts during the morning or evening hours, when it’s usually cooler out. If you typically run 30 minutes daily try breaking that up in two 15-minute sessions — preferably one in the morning and another occurring around sunset. You may also gradually increase each session’s volume and intensity.
Dehydration, initially causing decrements in performance, can ultimately lead to heat illness if not addressed. Dehydration actually reduces sweat rate, so the body cannot cool itself via evaporation of sweat during exercise. Sweating is critical to keeping the body cool, especially when the environmental temperature is greater than the body’s core temperature.
Tip: Ramp up your fluid intake, especially if you live in a warmer climate and are physically active. Prior to exercise, consume at least one pint of fluid two hours before activity. During exercise, you should be sure to have fluids readily accessible to replace sweat loss due to heat and/or intense exercise. Following exercise, weigh yourself, rehydrating by consuming one pint per pound lost during the exercise session. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, but lost three pounds during your workout, be sure to consume 3 pints of fluid.
Electrolytes, namely sodium, help maintain fluid balance and cellular homeostasis, by transporting nutrients to and waste away from cells. These become depleted during periods of exercise, especially in the heat.
Tip: Ingest more electrolytes. Consider adding table salt to your food at mealtimes and adding sources of potassium, such as bananas and baked potatoes to your diet. You may also consider consuming an electrolyte-enriched beverage around the time you exercise.
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