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Tips to avoid overheating on a run as temperatures begin to rise

Running & Fitness
Saturday, May 14, 2022

The hot weather makes it difficult, and often dangerous, for runners. The high temperatures can cause several possible serious problems if proper precautions are not followed. The runner may start to feel lightheaded and may have cramping muscles. If goosebumps start to appear on the body on a hot day, it is the first signal that you need to stop running and find a place to cool down. The next step following the chills is heavy sweating and difficulty in moving. The running pace you started out with may now be a slow walk. This is a serious warning sign and the runner needs to stop running, find a cool place to rest and get plenty of fluids into their body. The addition of getting under a cold hose or jumping in a cold river is a real plus to cool off. This condition is heat exhaustion and can sneak up on a runner very quickly and the need for immediate action to stop and cool off is a primary concern. The final danger is when the runner stops sweating, the skin becomes dry and hot, and the heart rate is elevated. When heat stroke happens, it results in the runner going down and having serious health issues. The need for cold applications to the body such as ice packs or cold towels is a necessary part of treating this condition. If the runner does not respond, it is advisable to call for the EMT’s aid. 

A few points to running cooler are repeated every year as a reminder to run safe. Some runners like to run without a shirt or only a halter, thinking it is the best way to run cool. The problem is that on a hot day while running, the body will sweat heavily. The sweat forms a layer of insulation on the skin and actually prevents the body from cooling itself. Wearing a hi-tech shirt is the better option. The fabric does not absorb the sweat but transfers it to the outside of the shirt where air can help evaporate the moisture. The evaporation process cools the skin and body enough to allow a comfortable run. If you have ever felt the hi-tech fabric on the skin, or after taking it off, you notice that it feels cool. Some runners put ice cubes in a cap on the head to help keep cool. They also have “neckties” that, when soaked in water, will swell up and cool off when you place it around your neck. The key is to prevent the buildup of the core temperature of the body.

One point that is dangerous but is still seen on runners, or fitness enthusiasts, is to wear a warm sweatshirt, a hoodie or even a rubber jacket while running. The thought behind this dangerous practice is that the runner will sweat off a lot of weight. This practice is used by boxers, wrestlers and jockeys that need to make it down to a specific weight. It is a one-day sweat to lose the weight for the weigh-in the next day. The danger is that the core temperature of the body can build up very fast and the three steps of heat problems can take place in a very short time. This practice is not a good method for losing any permanent weight. The runner will sweat off several pounds after a workout but as soon as they drink any fluid, it will all be returned. As a former wrestler, I lost about eight pounds after every workout. I lost the same eight pounds every day as I drank a lot of fluid after the workout and gained it all back. Then the day before a match I wouldn’t drink any fluid and make my weight the next day. I had several wrestlers make weight in the morning, drink fluid after weigh-in and weigh as much a five to seven pounds heavier when they stepped out on the mat.

To lose weight, the body needs to burn calories. Dressing in warm clothes during a run or workout causes the runner to only run a short time or distance. Dressing cool and running farther and faster burns more calories and the loss of weight is more permanent. As a wrestling coach, I did not allow my wrestlers to wear extra clothes, especially rubber jackets. They could work out longer and harder staying cool than they could if they became overheated from wearing warm shirts. The same principle is applied to runners that are wanting to lose weight by sweating it off. The weight loss is only as good as the time it takes you to finish the run and drink a glass of water.

The reason this topic is written every year when the temperatures get hot is I still see runners with hoodies or rubber jackets on a run. The danger of overheating is very serious and runners need to be aware of the early warning signs to prevent the problems leading to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Run cool and stay healthy during the hot summer days.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666