By Dr. Lawrence Fong
ValleyCoach.comSummer is a great time to train. There is plenty of sunshine, beautiful weather, and lots of races and events to train for. However, because of potential heat injury and sun damage, there are certain precautions that should be taken. Here are some tips to avoid heat injury. 1) Hydration: The best defense against heat injury is hydration. So drink up – and I don’t mean the sudsy beverages either! Drink 30-45 minutes before exercise and then 8 oz. of fluid every 15-20 minutes. If you are working out over 60 minutes, use a sports drink because they contain needed electrolytes and carbohydrates to replace what’s lost and will help you recover faster. Have a nice cold recovery drink waiting for you when you’re done exercising. 2) Use Sunscreen: To help prevent sunburn make sure you use a broad-spectrum water resistant and sweat resistant sunscreen, preferably with zinc-oxide. This will deflect away harmful UVA and UVB rays that can damage your skin. Make sure to apply liberally to exposed skin at least 15-20 minutes prior to exercising and to re-apply as directed. Don’t forget the ears, lips, scalp, hands, and feet! 3) Acclimatize to the heat: Avoid peak hours of direct sunlight (between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.). If you cannot avoid training when it’s hot, gradually increase your exposure over a couple weeks. Begin with a short 15 minute workout and add 10 minutes every day. You can generally acclimatize to the heat in two or three weeks. As your body gets used to the heat, it will begin its self temperature regulation sooner by increasing your sweat rate and amount. This is the body’s way of cooling itself down – through sweat evaporation. Make sure to continue taking in plenty of fluids! 4) Dress Cool: Now I DON’T mean “dress to impress.” What I DO mean is to wear light color clothing that will not absorb the sun’s heat rays. Make sure you are not wearing cotton clothing as it will soak up your perspiration and not allow your body to cool down. Wear clothing that wicks away moisture such as Coolmax or DriFit material. They will help pull moisture away from your body, allowing it to cool itself. If cycling, wearing a thin base layer of this material under your jersey will actually keep your core temperature cooler than just wearing the jersey by itself. This is very important in regards to your socks. Blisters can easily form if your feet become moist from sweat, so be sure to wear a synthetic sock. A visor or hat will shield your face and head which will help keep you cooler. Sunglasses will help keep the sun’s glare from your eyes, and will allow your facial muscles to relax. 5) Carry Extra: Be prepared for workouts that last longer than expected. Don’t run out of sports drink or gels when you’re still miles from home. Bring extra with you in case of emergency. If running, bring an extra gel with you, along with extra fluids. If cycling, bring some extra sports drink powder in a zip lock bag and refill your water bottle if needed. I always carry an extra sports bar and gel in my pocket. In case of Emergency: Heat exhaustion is caused by dehydration. Symptoms include chills, lightheadedness, dizziness, profuse sweating, and nausea. If you find yourself or someone else in this situation, get the individual to a cool shaded area and administer fluids. Seek medical advice.