The Heat is On
by Coach Pat Connelly
In summer, you must make adjustments to your daily training - especially as you get older. You begin to lose the ability to make the changes in body chemistry required for running in the heat. This is of particular importance when designing a training schedule for months when the temperature climbs to uncomfortable levels. The training session must be moved to a cooler time of day or changes must be made in each session to compensate for the heat.
Training in the heat poses a substantial risk, even to the healthiest. The vital ingredient in the prevention of heat injury during prolonged exercise is water. For any runner, water is a truly vital resource. It is the precious fluid required to keep organs and muscles running at an efficient and healthy level. Some of the important areas to remember when preparing proper hydration for training and racing are:
- Water regulates body temperature, carries nutri-ents and oxygen to cells, removes wastes and protects organs and tissues. While the human body can live for weeks without food, it can only survive a few days without water. Runners can do a distance training session without food; they cannot adequately perform without water.
- Water should be consumed just before and during a training session. Water should be consumed regularly throughout the day. Medical experts recommend drinking at least eight ounces of water approximately 8-10 times per day.
- A runner will lose 2.5 to 3 quarts of water per day through normal elimination, sweating and breathing. On a training day, a runner will lose another quart and a half. If you are running in a humid climate, you might lose another quart.
- A male runner's body is 60-65% water. A female runner's body is 50-60% water. The human brain is about 75% water. Can you imagine what happens in a marathon race when the brain is dehydrated at 18-20 miles?
- Water is a simple remedy for a multitude of runners' health problems. Water will aid in digestion and ease muscle soreness after a race or training session.
- Most runners are looking for ways to lose extra pounds and be leaner for the big race. Proper water intake is important to weight loss. Water helps metabolize fat and combats water retention. Ironically, when you don't drink enough water, your body's survival instincts take over and it retains every drop it can. Water helps you race and train more efficiently. It lubricates the joints, helps maintain proper muscle tone, cools the body and replaces fluids lost during perspiration.
Dangerous changes can take place in the body when a runner refuses to take water. There are several stages of heat danger, each more serious than the last:
Tips for Avoiding Heat Problems
- Heat Cramps from excessive sodium loss.
- Heat Exhaustion, caused by excessive sweating and fluid loss, which lead to dehydration. Heat exhaustion is characterized by con-fusion, a mild elevation of temperature (up to 103 degrees), cool and sweaty skin.
- Heatstroke, the most serious level of heat damage, during which the body┐s core temperature can soar to 106 degrees. Heatstroke can lead to brain damage and/or death.
When outside temperatures are higher than skin temperatures, body fluids evaporate. A runner has to keep adding water to their system. In addition, take the following precautions whenever you can:
- Wear a cap.
- Keep your head cool. Pour a cup of water on your head at water stops along the racecourse or carry water for that purpose.
- Keep your body damp.
- Consume water before, during and after every training run or race, whether you feel thirsty or not.
- Drink electrolyte drinks if they are available.
- Never run alone in the heat - especially if you are away from busy roads or out of sight of other pedestrians.
- Do not try to push yourself beyond your limits in hot weather.
- Drive to a cooler climate (ocean) or train in the early morning or evening hours.
- If the weather is warmer than predicted, change from a planned interval, fartlek or hill session to an easy run.