Moe Johnson Running with Moe
Tips for running in hot weather
One of my repeat articles is about the dangers of running on hot days.
This week is a little different about hot weather running. There is hot weather and then there is very hot weather. With the heat index hitting record highs the danger of running in very hot weather is even more dangerous.
The three levels of heat problems include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat Cramps are usually ignored by many runners because on some runs the muscles get tired and start to hurt.
Knowing the difference between a muscle cramp from exercise and a muscle cramp from excessive heat is often hard to distinguish for runners.
Either one of the causes of muscle cramps is an early warning sign that the runner needs to back off on the effort of the run.
Heat exhaustion is the next level of exercising in hot weather.
The early warning signs are trouble focusing on things, ‘goose bumps’ on the skin, and feeling like the hair on the back of the neck and head is sticking out.
Heavy sweating is also a sign but on hot days it is again difficult to tell if thesweating is from heat exhaustion or plain sweating from exercise.
The inability of focus is one of the best methods to determine if it is time to stop and cool down. Try solving a simple math problem or trying to recall your schedule of events after your run and not being able to do so are examples.
As an example of my experience with heat exhaustion was not being able to recognize landmarks and location of where I was on my return to my house.
I found myself walking and not having any idea where I was until I saw my house two blocks away. I thought I would run those last two blocks.
About one block later I was once again walking and made it into a cool house. The problem often occurs when previous activities may not be considered as exercise.
I had mowed my lawn and done some yard work before my run and I began the run with a little dehydration thinking a quick three mile run would be easy.
For an observer of a runner with heat exhaustion a problem is that the runner often thinks that they can keep running.
I was at the finish area waiting for a friend to finish when a runner made the turn too soon and ran into a plate glass window of a store.
He thought he could get up and finish the race. I told him he was already finished and told the next three runners to send the EMT’s to his location. One other race had the runner walking back to his car and collapsed alongside the road.
His friend said he was an experienced runner and would be okay. Any runner laying in a grassy ditch from heat exhaustion is not going to be okay.
The problem at this location was the first aiders were volunteers. They wanted to put a blanket on top of him. I said it would be better to put it under him to keep the ants from biting and sent some bystanders to get some ice to start cooling him down.
The last level is heat stroke. This level is very dangerous and can be life threatening. The signs of heat stroke include the skin is “hot” to touch and the runner stops sweating. It won’t be long after these signs appear that the runner collapses and will fall to the ground. If the runner does not cool down quickly it becomes a serious situation and dangerous to their life. Applying cold packs under the armpits and on the chest and head are emergency things that bystanders can do until medical personnel arrive. Heat stroke does not play favorites and can strike any runner from beginner to the experienced.
With the temperatures in the ‘very hot’ level the rate at which the early warning signs of the three levels of heat problems may appear much more quickly and reach a dangerous level before the runner has time to realize they are in trouble.
There are some cases of heat stroke where the runner went from running in a race to collapsing on the ground.
Prevention is a must when running in hot weather. Drink plenty of cold water. Cold water is absorbed faster than cool water or Gatorade. After recovery the Gatorade is good but for immediate treatment the sugar in the energy drinks slows absorption. Runners have put ice packs around their neck to help stay cool. Some runners put ice packs under a cap on their head to keep cool. Wearing a shirt that wicks the sweat away from the body helps. For men that think running without a shirt is cooler the problem is the sweat on the body gets very heavy and acts more as a barrier to prevent cooling by evaporation. Stay cool, keep the run short, keep hydrated, and listen to your body for warning signs.