I've been a little lazy lately but it's been very hard to get motivated to work out. It's over 100 with the heat index here and so humid I can't breathe. Anyway, it made me think that it might be useful to review tips for working out in the heat.
I went for a run on Thursday at 6:30. It was an "orange quality air day" in St. Louis (it has been for awhile now with this heat wave), meaning that people may have a hard time breathing the disgusting air outside and should stay in. I thought it would be better since the sun was going down so I went out for a run. I had planned on going 5 miles. The heat stifled me the second I walked out the door. It took my breath away. I willed myself into a jog. The shade and rare wisp of an occassional breeze offered little respite from the suffocating heat. 10 minutes later, it offered no relief for my quickly overheating body. My head ached, and I felt slightly naseous--warning signs of the beginnings of heat exhaustion. Listening to my body, I slowed down to see if that would help. I could feel my heart pounding, pulsating in my head. My stomach began to act up, giving me warning signs of gastric distress. I slowed to a walk and decided to turn back early, cutting a mile off the original run. Although I only had 1 mile to go, it was torturous. When I finally got back to the air-conditioned lab, I vowed never to run in that sort of heat again.
Part of the problem is that my body didn't get the chance to adjust to the heat this summer. Last summer, I was in pretty good shape when the heat hit, and it was relatively easy to slow down and alternate between road and indoor treadmill runs for a few weeks until my body adjusted. This time, I'm trying to get back into running, and my body just can't handle trying to adjust to both stresses at once. Moral? I need to take it easy.
How to do this? Treadmill running is a blessing in disguise. I run on the treadmill more in the summer than in the winter in St. Louis. It's much harder to run in the heat than in the cold. I love blasting a fan and the a.c. on the treadmill.
Also, follow the weather in your area closely. It's best to run first thing in the morning (6:00 a.m.) when it's the coolest outside. If you can't do that (like me, a late sleeper), the next best thing is to run just before dark (or if it's safe in your area, after dark), around 7:30 p.m. when the heat isn't as intense. Try to pick shady paths. Take advantage of cooler, breezier days or intermittent thunder storms. These conditions offer much needed breaks.
Give yourself a break. You can't go as hard when it's hot b/c your body and cardio system is working equally hard to cool itself hot, causing your heart rate to soar. If you aren't wearing a heart rate monitor, listen to your body. If you start to feel out of breath, naseous, dizzy, overheated, or have a headache, slow down. Walk. If it doesn't get better, stop and rest in a cool, shady area. Heat stroke can be fatal so you need to pay attention to the signs. If you (or running partner) ever turn pale, stop sweating, or feel very faint, get to an ER immediately.
Remember to drink lots of fluids, preferably a sports drink to replenish electrolytes as well as fluids. Wear a hat and/or sunglasses. Wear sunblock. Don't forget to wear wicking, non-cotton, lightweight clothing made for running in the heat---shorts and a singlet. Warm-ups and cool-downs are also very important as they allow your body to adjust to the heat gradually. Most importantly, remember to give yourself a break. You simply can't perform in the heat like you can when it's cool. Keep that in mind and listen to your body; you'll be able to enjoy and sustain keeping fit in the heat. And if you're like me, just take it indoors and blast the a.c. Keep cool everyone!