As is often the case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
And when it comes to dealing with heat illness, that is certainly the case.
Preventing heat illness will always be the preferred option to having to treat it/manage it once it has already set it.
If you missed last week’s QT on the signs/symptoms of heat illness, go ahead and check that post out so you’ll know what to be aware of while out on the roads and trails this summer.
Preventing Heat Illness Isn’t as Simple as Staying Hydrated
Without question, the most common piece of advice for preventing heat illness is to stay hydrated.
Making sure you’re drinking enough water is important, without question, but hydration is only part of the equation.
Instead of focusing on hydration this summer when it’s wicked hot, why not focus on being well hydrated year round?
Not for nothing, but that would serve your health and your training well year round instead of just from May thru September.
For the record, there isn’t a specific guideline for the amount of water you should drink each day either.
Instead, rely on the pee test.
When it comes to preventing heat illness, it is important to be adequately hydrated.
But it’s not the only thing that matters.
Eat Quality Food
This is another topic that should serve a 12-month time frame instead of just when it comes to the summer months, but fueling your body well in the summer is important.
If you operate under the assumption that because you’re running all the miles you can get away with eating whatever shit you want, you need to reassess that assumption.
I’m not saying you can’t have something less than healthy on occasion, Lord knows I do, but the fuel you give your body is important.
When you’re running this summer, the first priority your body has is making sure that your core temperature doesn’t rise to a dangerous level. f you’re running while it’s hot and humid, that requires some serious work.
If you’re running while it’s hot and humid, that requires some serious work. And serious work requires quality fuel.
Again, a quality diet should be a priority year round. But when it comes to preventing heat illness, especially heat cramps, it’s another key piece of the prevention puzzle.
When is the easiest time for preventing heat illness?
Probably when it’s not as hot, eh?
Ergo, get your butt out of bed and run early, ideally before the sun even rises.
If that isn’t possible, then save your runs until the evening when the sun is setting and (hopefully) there is a bit of a breeze.
In most cases, the coolest hours of the day will be pre-dawn which makes it the best time to beat the heat. But if you can avoid running during the heat of the day, that would probably be a good choice.
Get Off the Street
It pains me to say this, but if the heat is bad enough you might be well suited to head inside for some miles on the dreadmill as opposed to taking the chance with a heat illness.
Honestly, this isn’t an option for me.
But let’s not kid ourselves, I live in FL and my body is as adapted to running in the heat and humidity as anyone.
That said, if you get a random heat wave that you aren’t accustomed to, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Another option would be to head to the trails and hopefully get some extra shade and the reduction of radiated heat off of the pavement and buildings that has to be considered while running in more urban/suburban areas.
Treating a Case of Heat Illness
If you feel the like you might be going down the road toward heat illness, or if someone that you are running with is, you need to stop running.
Do not pass go. Do not try for another mile to see if you’ll feel better (you won’t).
Just. Stop. Running.
Now that you’re not running any longer, head for someplace cool.
Inside in the AC is probably the best bet, but if it’s not available then get out of the sun and into the shade. And if there is an option to get in some cool water like a lake or river, do it.
Next, strip off as many layers as you can. The more skin you have exposed to the environment around you, the more your body will be able to cool itself via perspiration.
And finally, start pumping the fluids.
When your body is working hard to bring your core temperature down, replacing the fluids your body is sweating out is a must.
Don’t Wait to Act
If you take action during the early stages of heat illness, you should be fine.
Yes, it sucks to shut your run down early but it beats the alternative.
And what is the alternative?
If you ignore the symptoms and keep pushing, and your core temperature continues to rise, you are looking at a date with 911 and, potentially, a visit to the morgue.
Heat illness is nothing to be trifled with as it can escalate and become deadly in not a lot of time.
So when you feel an issue that could be related to the heat coming on, or see a friend that is struggling, the time to act is now.
Any Questions About Anything Related to Heat Illness, Let Me Know Below!
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