As we quickly approach the first day of summer the temperatures continue to rise, though they’ve been unseasonably warm all winter/spring. The past few weeks in the DC area we’ve had almost record highs, up in the 90s. With heat comes a lot of warning in prep to get our bodies used to the temperatures/humidity it’s going to face during the next few months. It takes about 2wks, sometimes a bit more for our bodies to acclimate to the warm temperatures and the first few hot days are the time when a lot of people overheat which can have very serious consequences including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Strenuous physical exercise in very hot, humid conditions can be difficult because the body is inefficient at cooling itself down. When you sweat in conditions with lower humidity, the sweat quickly evaporates into the air leaving you cooler. When in high humidity shows up sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly because the air around you is already saturated with moisture. The high humidity causes your body to work harder, putting out more sweat in an effort to cool down and you end up a sweaty, tired and even irritable.
As it’s getting warmer please dress smart – light colored or white shirts reflect more of the sun’s rays and are a better choice in the heat, bringing along a hat that is well ventilated can keep you cool, though some may find it too hot. Experiment and find what works for you. Try to do your training runs in the early morning or evenings when the sun is just rising or setting.
One of the most important things about running in hot/humid conditions is hydration which is crucial for making your muscles work efficiently. Maintaining your water/fluid intake during a workout is important for many factors, it keeps the blood moving and keeps your bowels moving around so your stomach doesn’t get sick/cramp. It helps with muscle cramping, many times a side stitch or cramp is due to improper hydration.
If you’re a heavy sweater it is incredibly important to keep your fluids up to replace what you’ve lost, but sometimes water isn’t enough. Depending on how long you’re running or how much you sweat you’ll also need to replace the various salts you lose while you workout. For long distance runners having salt tabs such as succeed are good to take while running. You can also eat a banana, it’ll give you much-needed potassium but also some sugars.
The main reason you need to replace salts boils down to basic science: muscle fibers need salts to contract. All cells have ionic pumps that pump sodium/potassium/calcium in and out of the cell in a very specific balance, if that balance is thrown off then our muscle fibers don’t fire like they should which will cause cramping and fatigue.
Here’s a little science video about muscles…just because I’m a science nerd! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2NPtiYNuNrE
It’s good to take a swig of water every 10 minutes or so, best to do before you are thirsty because if you are thirsty you are already on the start to being dehydrated. If you find after these really hot days that you have a headache or your muscles are cramping, drink more water-if you sweat a lot definitely replace the salts you lost with an electrolyte drink.
I know many of us like some beer during the summer especially after our runs, which can provide your body with some carbs but also take into account that drinks like beer or anything with a lot of caffeine in it can significantly dehydrate your body.
You don’t have to drink water to hydrate either, if you find water boring grab some type of fruit, which research has recently show may hydrate the body twice as efficiently than water alone and provide you with nutrients or salts that you are losing. A few good fruits/veggies to try are:
CANTALOUPE, PEACHES, STRAWBERRIES
All these fruits are mostly water and rich in potassium, an electrolyte lost through sweat. “Potassium and sodium work together to maintain fluid levels in the body,” says Wendy Brazilian, Dr.PH., R.D., author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet, “which helps regulate your heartbeat and circulation.” One cup of each contains between five and 10 percent of your daily needs.
WATERMELON, KIWI, CITRUS
Vitamin C can help maintain cartilage and joint flexibility, and all of these fruits provide at least 1/3 of your daily need per serving. It also plays a role in protecting your skin and vitamin C counters those effects.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene; studies link this antioxidant to a reduced risk of lung, stomach, prostate, breast, colon, and cervical cancer. Broccoli is 90 percent water, even though it doesn’t appear that way, and contains compounds called isothiocyanates. A 2010 study in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry found isothiocyanates block a defective gene that causes cells to become cancerous.
Both of these fruits may help you recover and rehydrate postrun. Studies show the enzyme bromelain, found in pineapple, may reduce inflammation and speed muscle repair. “Tart cherries contain anthocyanins and melatonin, which reduce inflammation,” says Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D., professor of cellular and structural biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center
If you’re a numbers person here’s some numbers from a Runner’s World article that shows the amount of fluid you should consume for each mile you run based on your weight and the temperature outside.