Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Avoid Heat Exhaustion During Exercise

For those of us that live in areas that celebrate all four seasons—it's that time of year again. Time to sweat our butts off whenever we find fitness outside. I welcome it, but I also loathe it. I much prefer colder temperatures when it comes to running outside, for example. But heat is a fact of life that we must deal with whenever it presents itself. So today, I thought we'd discuss how to avoid heat exhaustion during exercise.

Let's take a moment to define heat exhaustion so that we're all on the same page: Our bodies are built to cool themselves, but sometimes, external factors get the best of us and our bodies ultimately can't keep up so we fall into a state of inefficiency otherwise known as heat exhaustion.

Now, obviously the above can be signs of other medical issues, so please, be smart if you're exercising in the heat and you experience ANY of them. Stop, get help. Your health is always more important than your training run.

I digress.

Exercising in the heat can be a huge challenge, especially if there is a bit of humidity involved. To cool itself, the body releases excess liquids into the atmosphere around it. So obviously, if the atmosphere is already full of liquids (like humidity), this poses a problem for our built-in air conditioners. This is why it is extremely important to adhere to well-known rules and regulations regarding exercising in hot temperatures. In such situations, your end goal should always be to avoid heat exhaustion. That way, you can check a successful run (or whatever) off your list.

So what follows is a list of the aforementioned and commonly known rules and regulations regarding the avoidance of heat exhaustion during exercise:

1) Take it easy. 
If you aren't used to exercising in hot temperatures, don't assume that you'll be able to lace up and go. Like the process of acclimating to higher grounds, it takes time to adjust to higher temps. First time out in the hot summer sun? Go a shorter distance at a slower pace, and bring water.

2) Avoid black clothing.
Ever sit on the black leather seat of a car and totally burn your bum? Black attracts heat. Why wear it? And besides, funky colors are totally in right now. Be bold with your brightly clothed self!

3) Let your skin breathe.
Fitness clothing is so advanced these days that you'll be hard-pressed to find anything that isn't touted as "sweat-wicking" or "breathable," which is a very good thing. Your skin needs to get rid of excess moisture and heat. Trap all that in with a long-sleeved t-shirt or coat, or a shirt that holds on to sweat and you're asking for trouble.

4) Hydrate.
When your body sweats, as I've said before, it gets rid of excess moisture to help itself cool off. But you need to replace that moisture, so keep drinking water throughout your workout. Drink it before and after, too. If that doesn't make sense, let me ask you this: Your car burns fuel as it goes, but will it go when that fuel supply runs out?

5) Wear sunscreen.
This has less to do with heat exhaustion and more to do with protecting your skin. It works hard all summer to help regulate your body's temperature. Seriously, lotion up. It's important.

6) Get some airflow.
When it's super hot outside, we find ourselves coming inside for relief. But that doesn't always mean that we can find it. Gyms tend to heat up quickly, whether that gym is in your own home or down the road. So make sure you pick the treadmill with the built-in fan, or the one closest to the floor fan if at all possible. Airflow does wonders for indoor workouts as it keeps excess moisture in movement. And by "excess moisture," I mean that which you expire via exercise.  Otherwise known as sweat.

Question: How do you manage exercise when the temps get hot? Got a hot-temp tip I forgot to mention?

1 comment:

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