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Tips for Running in the Summer Heat


Proper preparation while exercising during the summer is important no matter what the exercise is that you are doing. This is especially critical if you are participating in outdoor activities such as running or jogging that place greater tax on your cardiovascular system.  Staying hydrated no matter what intensity of the exercise that you are doing is key. Heat exhaustion can occur when your body gets too hot, resulting in symptoms such as weakness, muscle cramps, dehydration, dizziness, confusion, rapid heart rate and headache. Getting out of the heat and drinking enough water can help prevent or treat heat exhaustion. If heat exhaustion symptoms are ignored and stay untreated, heat stroke may result, which is a very dangerous and life threatening situation. Signs of heat stroke are confusion, unconsciousness, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and skin that feels hot and dry. While you are exercising it is important to be near a source of water to replenish your fluids to avoid this dangerous situation. While exercising in hot weather you can easily lose up to a quart of water each hour. Drink water before, during, and after exercising. You should not wait until you are thirsty before you drink water.  As a general rule, drink water every 15-20 minutes during a workout or two to four glasses of water an hour. Be sure to listen to your body. If you notice any symptoms of heat illness, stop your workout. It is never a good idea to "push yourself" in extreme heat.

Another training concept to keep in mind is to avoid running and/or exercising outside during peak sun and heat hours where you are more likely to get dehydrated and more likely to be affected by the sun. The best times to run are either in the early morning (before 10 a.m.) or in the late evening (after 7 p.m.). If you cannot avoid running during the peak hours be sure to seek shaded areas to run in such as parks, trails or other tree-lined areas; this can help you stay cooler compared to running in direct sunlight. No matter what time of day, it is also important to wear the appropriate clothing while you are exercising. Lightweight, loose fitting clothing that can wick the sweat away from your body while allowing for ventilation is best.  If you are out in the sun, it is best to make sure your skin is covered as much as possible with lightweight clothing. By being covered, wearing a hat, and using sun screen you can avoid getting a sun burn and exposure to harmful cancer-causing sun rays. Sun burns are more than just painful and annoying; they can affect the way that your body cools itself ,which in turn will affect your work out.

There are times when it is understandable that exercising or running in the heat is unavoidable, so what should you do then? Becoming acclimated to the heat before starting any intense workouts or running in the heat is important. Start by exercising in the heat for only a few minutes each day and gradually increase the amount of time you can tolerate outdoors. During this acclimation period, you can do your warm-ups outside in the heat, and then continue your more intense workout or run indoors. Err on the side of caution and know when to stay inside. If temperatures climb above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, run indoors in an air-conditioned environment (i.e., at your gym). If that is not an option, perhaps it is best to choose another day to workout or choose a less intense activity such as walking while the temperatures are so high.

Keep your mind and body strong and healthy by enjoying the great outdoors while keeping in mind the above safe training concepts.  Happy Trails!