HAMLET — For runners, maintaining an outdoor workout routine during the hot summer months can present a few challenges. With temperatures averaging in the mid-to high 90s in Richmond County, runners are at increased risk for heat-related health concerns, such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
“Whenever the temperature spikes, we see an increase in emergency room visits from individuals who have been running or otherwise exerting themselves outdoors,” said George Veasy, MD, of Sandhills Orthopedics. “Often times these issues can be avoided by taking the proper precautions and remaining vigilant for warning signs of heat-related illnesses.”
Before stepping out into the heat, runners — or anyone who will be participating in physical activity — should take a moment to consider these safety tips:
• Hydrate before your workout — According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, your body can go from mildly dehydrated to fully hydrated in just 45 minutes, helping prepare you for a hot-weather run. Focus on ingesting 600ml of water about an hour before your workout. Afterward, enjoy a drink containing electrolytes, which will help your body hydrate more quickly than water alone.
• Allow time to adapt — It takes about two weeks for the body to adapt to hot weather and begin to cool itself more efficiently. Acclimate safely by beginning with a lower intensity run. By allowing time to adapt, you become a “better sweater,” your cardiovascular function improves and your exercise performance increases.
• Protect your skin — Protect yourself from skin cancer and other skin damage by using sunscreen liberally whenever you’re outdoors. Choose a sunscreen with a high SPF and remember to re-apply often, particularly if you’ve been sweating.
• Be aware of the risk — Keep in mind the increased risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Take caution, and join a running club or find a running partner to ensure you are not alone should heat related illness strike. Be aware that unexplained confusion, dizziness, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps and nausea are the first signs of dehydration and heat-related illness.
• Be tech savvy — Wear light colored running clothes made of technical fabrics that are designed to allow sweat to evaporate more quickly and keep you cool. Innovations in running gear also allow athletes to carry the essentials while on the move. Pockets inside the clothing are perfect for keys, a phone in case of emergency or a little bag of sunscreen.
With running or any other exertion in the heat, make sure you have access to hydration throughout your workout. Carry water or a sports drink with you or plan a route that includes regular sites where you can stop and access hydration.
“It’s important to be prepared and plan ahead,” said Veasy. “With the proper preparation and good self-awareness you can safely maintain an active lifestyle even in the heat of the summer.”