Nobody likes exercising in the heat of summer. It’s hot, it’s sweaty, it’s humid, it sucks. But with summer sports hitting full swing and RunWest being held in March next year, being able to train and play at your best in hot conditions is essential especially if your aiming to improve your performance through the summer months. But training in extreme temperatures is not without its own risks.
At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games earlier this year, you may remember the terrible footage of marathon runner Callum Hawkins collapsing with 2km to go, confused and unable to get up and continue and this year at the London Marathon heat stroke claimed the life of one runner. In Australia, we experience the extremes of hot weather and so we need to know how to prevent these things happening.
Heat injury is a term used to cover a spectrum of conditions that are caused the effects of heat. These can range from simple heat cramps through to life threatening heat stroke. So it’s important to know how you can avoid or reduce your risk of heat injury and just as important to be aware of the types of heat injury so that you know what to do if you think yourself or someone around you is suffering from heat-related injury.
Here’s a table of the conditions that can be caused by poorly managed exercise in hot conditions:
|Heat Cramps||Loss of electrolytes||Cramping in arms, legs or stomach after prolonged exercise.||Stop, stretch, drink and replace your salts
|Heat Syncope||Recently commencing heavy exercise||Fainting, fatigue and weakness||Stop, re-hydrate, replace salts and reduce training intensity in future sessions.|
|Heat Exhaustion||Salt and/or water depletion||Body temperature <40 degrees C, fainting, fatigue, weakness, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, cramping, confusion||Stop, move the athlete into shade, give fluids and electrolytes if conscious, cool the athlete by removing excess clothing, ice packs, fan, ice towels etc. Refer to a doctor if loses consciousness or vomiting.|
|Heat Stroke||Severe dehydration and/or salt depletion||Body temperature >40 degrees C, nausea, seizures, confusion, loss of consciousness.||Medical Emergency: Call an ambulance and monitor body temperature whilst start active cooling techniques like cold water immersion, ice packs and removing excess clothing.|
Summer is not a reason to not exercise, but we need to be smart about how we do it, when we do it and what we do!
SO HERE ARE MY 9 HOT TIPS ON HOW TO EXERCISE SAFELY IN SUMMER:
- Avoid outdoor exercise between 10 and 4pm, especially if it’s a humid day as high humidity reduces sweat evaporation. Early morning or evening runs are ideal.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure where possible. Run through the bush, not on the pavement.
- Wear light coloured, light weight, loose fitting clothing. You’re better off forgetting the fashion statement and ditching the tights and compression gear for a loose singlet and shorts.
- Pre-hydrate: drink a bottle of water before exercising
- Hydrate-on-the-go: get a hydration backpack or plan your run via some bubblers.
- Post-hydrate: weigh yourself before and after exercise, then drink 1.5 times the difference at the end. Electrolyte drinks are helpful when exercising more than 60min. This will also improve your recovery.
- Avoid anti-perspirant: this is designed to block your sweat glands which are trying to help keep you cool! But you don’t have to stink. Use plain deodorant instead, those around you will appreciate this.
- Watch the kids: Parents it’s your job at training and on the cricket field to make sure the kids get enough water. Children can’t regulate their body heat as well as adults nor are they as easily able to tell when they are overheating, so make sure they take breaks in the shade and drink plenty of water.
- Don’t train if you’re sick. You may already have a higher core body temperature and exercising may take it beyond its cooling capabilities.
Get your summer sweat on!
Written by Sydney West Sports Medicine Physiotherapist, Luke Anderson