By Joseph Ratti, MS, CSCS, PES, CES, CPT, LMBT
Bon Secours In Motion Sports Performance Coordinator
Summer is a popular season in our region to take your workout outdoors. With temperatures that often reach into the 90s, it’s critical to take steps to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion. Everyone, including athletes, who exercises in extreme heat is more likely to become dehydrated and get heat illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Make sure you understand any potential risks and keep your sports performance goals realistic.
Drink a lot of water. Hours before you brave the heat, you should drink 17 to 20 ounces to prepare your body for the fluid it will lose. Continue to drink 7 to 10 ounces of water during your workout. If you sweat profusely, you should drink additional water. Don’t forget to replenish your fluid reserves after exercise as well.
Just as important as hydrating is taking time to acclimate to the hot temperatures. Each person is slightly different, but generally it takes about two weeks of continual training in the heat to acclimate. Average at least one hour of moderate exercise daily in hot conditions to get results in that timeframe.
Gradually ease into heat training by staying at a low intensity at first. Depending on your normal exercise volume, fitness level and natural heat tolerance, you may need to reduce your activity volume slightly – or significantly – in the first days of heat exposure. As adaptations occur, intensity and volume can increase. Certain adaptations occur quicker than others. Decreased heart rate can occur in as little as five days, while changes in sweating response could take weeks. Furthermore, trained athletes usually adapt faster than untrained individuals.
Manage your expectations.
Another important strategy to help you train safely is adjusting your attitude and expectations for exercising in extreme temperatures. You should know that you may not be able to do as much or run as fast. If the humidity, temperature or dew point are dangerously high, it’s time to skip a workout or drastically lower your goals. You can always get your workout indoors at your local In Motion performance center.
The easiest way to avoid the midday heat is to schedule your workouts earlier or later in the day when the temperatures are lower. Wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing to help you stay cool. If you feel faint, stop exercising and find a cool environment. Muscle cramping can be one of the first signs of heat-related illness, according to the CDC.
Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, pale skin that feels cold and clammy, fainting, nausea and a fast or weak pulse.