Be Smart in the Summer Heat

After a nice, slow start to the summer, the heat is on and worse than ever. The air is so thick you can’t breathe it but you can wear it. {{more}}

If you do not monitor your body’s needs, it is easy for anyone to become compromised regardless of fitness level. Here is some information to help you better tolerate and enjoy outdoor activities.

Treat yourself like an Ironman. They know that in order to simply survive 140 miles they must stay optimally fuelled for the duration (9-16 hours).

Summer heat and humidity is a long course event requiring proper hydration at regular intervals before you are thirsty. You are already dehydrated by the time you are thirsty.

Once you become dehydrated you are behind the curve and will not be able to regain hydration until you go indoors. Outside in the heat, you can maintain a steady state of hydration, but once you get behind the curve you cannot drink enough to both recover what you lost and maintain. This applies to any activity, exercising, gardening, cutting the grass, working on the house, or any outdoor chores.

When you exercise, you have a fixed route; you know when you will end. The intensity is higher, but the duration is lower. Outdoor chores can last all day, are never ending (there is always something more), and continue throughout your lifetime. The intensity is lower, but the duration is much greater.

An interesting contrast of hydration awareness occurred on June 2 with the Rev3 Half Ironman in Middlebury, and the Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon in Simsbury. By 10:30 a.m., seven runners in the half marathon were taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion and the organizers went so far as to instruct the remaining runners on the course to walk.

At the half ironman, most competitors didn’t start the half marathon run until well after 11 a.m., but there were no casualties from heat exhaustion. The conclusion is not that triathletes are better athletes, just better prepared. When you exercise, hunger and thirst are diminished, so you have to condition yourself to replenish at regular intervals; alternating your focus from the race to your body’s condition.

If you are going to be exerting yourself outside in the heat, here are some tips.

* Wear a hat with a head sweatband. Just as your head can lose 20 percent of your body heat in the winter, you can also overheat by having your head exposed to the heat and humidity.

* Carry plenty of cold water with electrolytes. You can use electrolyte tablets or the higher calorie electrolyte drinks. If you are doing a lot of bending, the electrolytes will help keep you from becoming light-headed.

* Stay one step ahead and hydrate one-half to one hour before you go outside. Don’t go out depleted. Coffee doesn’t count. Water, juice, or herbal tea counts.

* Runners/Joggers: Even if you are only going what you would consider a short distance, carry water or hide water bottles along the route (to retrieve later), or wear a fuel belt.

* It is common for runners not to drink enough. You can find varying styles and brands of fuel belts at running stores.

Diet tip: now that it is summer and we are eating lighter and less, try a protein shake or protein smoothie for breakfast. You will be surprised. That mid-morning craving may go away.

Lesley is a health and fitness professional providing a balanced approach toward a healthy lifestyle. She can be reached at