Last weekend I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. We were warned of heat advisories earlier in the week and even though the race started at 6:30 am, the heat and humidity levels left many runners walking or finishing with substantially slower times. Several medical tents were positioned along the race and a couple people had to be taken from the course in stretchers.
Running in the heat is not something to be taken lightly and requires foresight and planning. It is important to listen to your body’s cues not only during hot times, but any time that you exercise. Consider these five messages from your body that shouldn’t be ignored:
By the time you realize you’re thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. Before any workout, make sure that you are properly hydrated and that you continue drinking 4 to 8 ounces of water and/or sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes, one of the many tips provided for running in Chicago’s heat and humidity. If you are working out indoors, make sure that you have access to a water fountain or bring your own drink to sip throughout.
When staying properly hydrated, make sure to not only drink water. Sweat depletes electrolytes necessary for the body to perform optimally, so also consider drinking sports drinks that replenish those lost electrolytes to maintain balance within the body.
I can’t breathe
Stop or slow down! If you are running, you should be at a pace where you can carry on a conversation. If you’re actually racing, it may be harder to carry on a conversation, but you shouldn’t be at the point where your body is signaling you that it can’t breathe.
If you’re in the middle of a workout, even one that is indoors, and find yourself having trouble breathing, take a break. Pause until you’re able to comfortably breathe again and pick back up where you left off. Not passing out is more important than finishing that move.
I’m too hot
If you’re outside, try and move into a shaded area. You can also use cool water to try and bring your temperature down. If there aren’t any quick solutions to cooling off, consider slowing down or stopping altogether. Working yourself to the point of heat stroke means that you will need medical attention and can be potentially life threatening.
Symptoms of heat stroke, according to the Mayo clinic, are:
- body temperature of 104 degrees or higher
- altered mental state of behavior
- flushed skin
- altered breathing
- racing heart rate
It’s hot, but I’m cold
If you’re exercising in the heat (think outdoor workouts) and suddenly start feeling cold, there are a couple things that need to be done. First, slow down or a take a break from what you’re doing. If you’re running, that means walk for awhile. According to Runner’s World, feeling cold during heat and humidity is a sign that your internal cooling mechanism is impaired.
Cold chills can be related to dehydration and the inhibition of sweat evaporation due to high levels of humidity. Remember when rehydrating to also replenish electrolytes that may have been lost through perspiration.
I’m in pain
First, take the time to figure out if your muscles are burning because it is a tough workout or if you’re legitimately in pain. That could be a signal that something is wrong and you should stop what you’re doing to prevent a serious injury.
The easiest way to identify injury is through a sharp pain. If this occurs, stop what you are doing and investigate the problem. If you experience pain that persists longer than a week, check with a medical professional. “Pushing through the pain” is not always a good motto and by not listening to the cues your body is giving you you may be doing more harm than good.
What other cues do you take note of from your body?