When It Feels Like You're Running through the Saharan Desert... Oh Wait it's Only the Texas Heat #Dehydration #HeatExhaustion
If you live in the southern parts of the U.S., you know how incredibly hot it can be in the summer months. Here in Houston Texas, we easily top out at temps above 100 degrees and with the heat index (i.e. relative humidity + temp), it can feel like 105F (40C) or hotter.
Last week, I learned first hand how brutal the heat can be when I made the not so wise decision to start my long run at 11 am when the heat index climbed to 104F! The plan was simple, run 12mi easy at ~2 minutes slower than marathon goal pace (MGP), with 1 bottle of my usual fuel (UCAN) and electrolytes (The Right Stuff electrolyes). After the first 5 miles though, I ended up having to stop about every mile or so to rest in the shade, drink water, even stoping for a snow cone (YES- a must)!!
The run didn't go as planned, but I learned a few valuable lessons...
BEAT THE HEAT & AVOID THE BONK
1. Adjust your plans and goals. Just because you have a specific plan or set a goal for a run or workout, it doesn't mean you will always achieve it in exactly the way you have it laid out in your mind; and that's ok. I think part of being an athlete at any level, is understanding things don't always go according to your plan, but being flexible and having alternative routes to get you where you want to go is key.
My Adjustments. When I got overheated, I adjusted my plan. I planned on running 12 miles, but had to knock 2 miles off because I was too hot and it was unsafe to continue. My goals also had to change. My goal was to stay within 2 minutes of MGP, but I was overheated and ended up running 2:30 - 3 minutes slower than MGP.
2. Determine your fluid & electrolyte needs. Crucial at any point during the season (hot or cold temps) because hydration plays a huge factor in athletic performance. Being dehydrated hurts performance slowing you down and decreasing your ability to do work. It can negatively affect concentration, mood, reaction times, and leave you fatigued.
Up to 60% of a person's body weight is made of water with 90% being located in blood (plasma). During the summer months, when temps crest above 90F, staying hydrated becomes even more important because loss of fluid from blood plasma strains the cardiovascular system making it harder for your body to pump blood and nutrients to working muscles and your brain.
Hydrate before your outdoor exercise session. Starting 4 hours before your workout, begin hydrating. Remember: Hydration needs are specific to an individual's body weight.
Recovery: Measure your post-run fluid needs. One of the easiest ways to determine how much fluid you need after a workout is to weigh yourself before and after a run. The difference in pre and post run weights is what you need to replace.
Rule of Thumb: For every 1 pound lost, drink 24 oz of fluids. And even if you are not a heavy salt sweater, make sure your recovery drink has sodium- it's the major electrolyte lost in sweat.
3. Prevent Heat Exhaustion. According to the Korey Stinger Institute, "Heat exhaustion is the most common heat-related condition observed in athletes to recreational hikers."
It is the inability to continue exercise in the heat due to:
PREVENT HEAT EXHAUSTION
Kristin is a runner, sports dietitian, and foodie. She's also been plant based for 25 years!