Exercise Safely in the Summer Scorch

Heat illness can be more than a pain, it can be life threatening. Learn the signs and symptoms of the phases of heat illness, how to prevent it and what to do if you experience it.

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It’s gorgeous outside. The summer sun is high in the sky and you’re motivated as ever to do a nice, long run outdoors.

But hold up! Before you catapult your fine, fit self into a sunny, sweaty workout there are things you must know and heed. Although studies show that people who exercise outdoors are happier and exercise longer than those who work out indoors, there can be some issues. Take it from me….I know from experience. I’ve been caught a mile from home, crawling toward my house, face purple, mouth pasty, light headed and nauseous, begging for someone to pick me up and give me a ride home. Has this ever happened to you? Let me help you keep from making your workout do more harm than good.

As if a sunburn isn’t bad enough, here is what can happen to you if you work out in the hot, summer sun without taking care. Each preceding condition, can dreadfully cause the next. They start mild then can quickly get worse.


Dehydration…Occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in.

Signs: thirst, dry skin, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, rapid heart beat


Heat Cramps…Tightening of your muscles resulting from electrolyte imbalance from loss of fluids.

Signs: muscular pain and cramping, hot sweaty skin, exhaustion, vomiting, fainting


Heat Exhaustion…Result of your body overheating from high temps usually combined w high humidity.

Signs: fever as high as 104, nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, cold clammy skin


Heat Stroke…Super serious condition caused by failure of your body’s temperature regulating mechanism when exposed to excessively high heat.

Signs: fever of over 104, confusion, slurred speech, hot and dry skin, vomiting, delirium, rapid breathing, racing heartrate

Basically this is what happens. Exercise and the outside temp increase your core body temperature. To cool itself, your body sends more blood to circulate through your skin and increases sweat production. The increased blood to the skin leaves less blood for your muscles which increases your heart rate. If there isn’t enough water in your body to produce sweat, your internal core temperature starts to rise and your heart rate increases further. Additionally, typically sweat is evaporated of the skin which serves to cool you off further. However, if outside humidity is high then moisture doesn’t readily evaporate off of your skin causing your body temp to get even higher.

How do you avoid overheating and feeling sick?

-Avoid exercising from 10am-3pm during the heat of the day. Early morning is best.

-Wear loose, light colored clothing to reflect heat and cotton to wick moisture away

-Wear sunscreen of minimum 45 spf, even on cloudy days

-Before you go out drink a glass or two of water. Carry water with you and drink 4-8 ounces of water every 15 minutes. When you’re done have more water.

-Get acclimated by running shorter distances the first couple of days of heat, then increasing slowly

-Take a cold shower before your workout or squeeze water on the top of your head while you exercise

-Exercise in cooler places

-Split up your workout by working out for a shorter time earlier in the morning, then again in the evening when it’s cooler

-Go slower

-Run through the sprinklers during your run!! (ok this is for fun too)

If you experience any type of heat illness do the following:

-Lie down in a cool, shady spot

-Remove extra clothing, fan your body or wet it down with cool water

-Place wet towels or ice packs around your neck

-Drink water or a sports drink immediately

Heat illness is quite serious and can be potentially life threatening. If your symptoms don’t get better after 20 minutes of treatment quickly get to the doctor or call 911.

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