Foot-race season is here, and many of us will take to running outside. Whether you are a seasoned runner or planning on running your first 5K this summer, there are some precautions to take to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
These occur when the body's own temperature regulatory system becomes inadequate at keeping the body cool.
There are two mechanisms the body uses in the attempt to keep from overheating. The first is one we are all familiar with — sweating. The evaporation of sweat from the surface of the skin helps to cool the body. Only the sweat that actually evaporates from the skin has a cooling effect. All that extra fluid dripping off you during your hot summer run is essentially wasted water.
Sweat can have a hard time evaporating when the humidity level is high, making it all the more important that you take the time to adequately rehydrate.
In addition to sweating, the body will also increase blood flow to the skin in the attempt to lose some of the extra body heat to the cooler environment. While this can help in the cooling process, it has the unfortunate side effect of reducing some of the blood flow to the working muscles. That's why your two-mile jog that may have been easy in May might become much more difficult in the heat of July or August.
When the temperature outside is higher than that of the body, this method of cooling becomes much less effective. Seek a cooler, shaded area a few times throughout your workout, and try to run in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.
When starting a running program, or doing any type of physical activity outside remember these tips in order to stay cool and safe:
■ Give yourself time to get acclimated to the summer heat. Start off running in short, easy bouts and slowly progress. It usually takes around a week of daily exposure for the body to make the necessary adaptations.
■ Stay hydrated. The body can lose anywhere between 20 and 48 ounces of water per hour during intense exercise.
■ Take frequent breaks in a cool, shaded area.
■ For intensive and/or hot training sessions lasting more than an hour consider drinking fluids with electrolytes such as a sports drink.
Grant Gensheimer, MS, CPT, is an exercise physiologist with Central Baptist HealthwoRx Fitness & Wellness Center at Lexington Green.