Beating the Heat of Summer
By Don Otis –
I can remember the first time I flew into Miami from Los Angeles. It was 3:00 p.m. and time for a workout after sitting on a long flight, right? What a big mistake!I learned a tough lesson after just a few blocks in that Miami heat. That was a long time ago and fortunately we have elliptical trainers, stair steppers, and treadmills we can use indoors when the heat is at its worst.
Those of us who exercise regularly, even during the hot summer months, find we lose far more fluids than we do in the winter or fall. It was during an eight hour climb in the Rockies that I learned that important lesson.
I left the trailhead at 7:00 a.m. and began sweating immediately as the trail began meandering up a steep series of switchbacks. In other words, I was losing hydration though perspiration from the start of my climb, which eventually took me over 14,000 feet. The high altitude combined with the perspiration caused by the physical effort left me under-hydrated. By the time I reached the summit and began my long descent, I knew I was low on fluids. I was on the trail for eight hours and finished off my 48 ounces of Gatorade and water, but I needed three times that much! Fortunately, by the time I reached the meadows below, there was plenty of snowmelt to refill my bottles.
When we exercise or work outdoors, we lose fluids quicker than we may realize. Like me, the tendency is to keep going and figure we can make up for it later on. Most of the time we can, but this can also be risky.
Perspiration helps cool us off when we are hot. In the process of sweating, we lose what are called electrolytes, or basic building blocks for the normal functioning of our cells. Sodium and potassium are two of these ingredients and these are found in fluid replacement drinks like Gatorade and similar drinks.
When I go on a long run, I take a couple small water bottles in a hydration belt. I have also found parks or other places that have drinking fountains. High school running tracks are great for walkers or runners because they have drinking fountains. Of course, you can also take along a bottle and grab a sip of water every couple of laps.
The key is to drink once you begin to exercise. Don’t drink too much beforehand or too much during, but make sure you are replacing some of the fluids you are losing. It would also seem obvious that the best time of the day for vigorous exercise is in the morning. If it’s too hot, go indoors or wait for the sun to go down.
The old wives’ tale of eight glasses of water is simply a rule of thumb. And the good news is that most fluids—other than sodas or alcohol—are perfectly fine. The commercial, “Obey your thirst,” is more than a slogan. Take this a step farther and drink smaller amounts, but do it more often when the heat is on.
Don S. Otis is president of Veritas Communications, a personal trainer and author of Staying Fit after 40. ©2010