By The Complete U Wellness Studio
As summer is now in full swing and we are all excited about enjoying the outdoors, it is important to be mindful of the heat while still having fun playing our favorite sports, riding our summer trails, or taking on challenging workouts. Although it may not always seem so dangerous, a paradox exists with exercising in the heat. Increased body core temperatures, requires the skin to need more blood flow to dissipate heat and keep the body cool, meanwhile, with increased exercise intensity, the working muscles require more blood flow to sustain their function. This creates a conflict within the body between the two physiological systems that are fighting for oxygen rich blood. Something always has to give; muscle blood flow will almost always win, causing a greater increase in your body core temperature, increased difficulty of your exercise, a faster accumulation of blood lactate, muscle energy reserve breakdown, a decreased time to fatigue, and rapid loss of electrolytes.
At this point you would be at risk for experiencing a heat illness of which there are three types: heat cramps, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. The following is a guide for common signs and symptoms of heat illnesses, as well as, what to do to prevent or manage them.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Heat Illness
- Dry Mouth
- Muscle Twitching, spasms, or cramps
- Headache, mental confusion, dizziness
- Hot, dry and red skin
- Irregular or rapid pulse
- Abnormally high or low blood pressure
How to Avoid Experiencing a Heat Illness
- Water & Electrolytes – Keeping your body well hydrated will allow for more effective sweating to keep your body cool. If exercising for more than an hour, electrolyte replacement with a sport drink or water additive, such as Endura by Metagenics, is recommended. Always be sure to have plenty of water on hand. (Endura is available at The Complete U Wellness Studio at HealthQuest – on sale 25% Off for a limited time!)
- Cold Wet Towel – Wear around your head or neck as these areas require most blood flow. This will help to relieve your body of thermoregulatory stress, while enhancing your exercise performance.
- Light Clothing – Light material clothing will help to keep your body cool by allowing for quicker sweat evaporation. Light colored clothing will also keep you cooler by reflecting the sun rays.
- Interval Training & Acclimatization – Break up your workout into intervals in order to provide time for your body to cool down in between your workout. Also, if training for a summer marathon or long duration event, give yourself at least 2 weeks to acclimatize to outdoor temperatures and environment with a progressive outdoor training program. The average person has a heat tolerance threshold of approximately 102 degrees, while elite endurance athletes can tolerate temperatures over 105 degrees.
- Adjust your Training Times – Workout in the early morning or evening to avoid the higher heat index.
Steps to Managing & Treating a Heat Illness
- Loosen & Move: Loosen up the clothes for ventilation and lie down in a cool shaded area.
- Initiate ABC’s (airway, breathing, circulation): Open the airway, ensure proper breathing and massage the muscles to provide better circulation.
- Give a Balanced Electrolyte Drink: Preferably a drink containing carbohydrates, sodium, potassium and magnesium.
- Monitor: If possible, monitor blood pressure and body temperature.
- Call for Help: In some cases, especially during heat stroke, the individual may require medical attention or even hospitalization. Call for help immediately if the individual does not show improvement.