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When to Say When (in the Texas Heat)

Subscribe to Briefing Living in Texas, we have little choice but to run in the heat, but it is important that we are smart about it. With temperatures about to hit the triple digits we'd like to offer some tips and things to watch out for to keep you healthy and safe. As any time that the temperatures go above 80 degrees and/or 50-60% humidity, we should become extra cautious.

First, a brief explanation of why runners are particularly susceptible to heat illnesses: it's the calorie-burning. According to Truman Clark who writes of his heat experience in Runners World, the same high-calorie burn that makes running such a great fitness and weight-loss exercise. In most normal conditions, this calorie-burning is a great aerobic benefit. But when the weather turns hot and humid, the heat you're producing might not have enough escape routes.

"During intense exercise, the heat produced by contracting muscles is 15 to 20 times that of basal metabolism," notes Clark, "and is sufficient to raise body temperature by 1 degree Celsius [1.8 degrees Fahrenheit] every 5 minutes if no temperature-regulating mechanism is activated."

So what does that mean to you and me? Basically if you run for 30 minutes and you haven’t sweat than you have raised your body temperature by 6 degrees. Meaning your normal body temperature of 98.6 has risen to 104.6. Throw in a side of Texas heat with that and your body could be cooking. So take it easy out there and watch for the early signs of heat illness, which are pretty clear cut. And if you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to stop running and get to the nearest air conditioner. The early symptoms of heat illness include:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Thirst
  • Muscle cramps

Later symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Dark urine

The symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Fever (temperature above 104F)
  • Irrational behavior
  • Extreme confusion
  • Dry, hot, and red skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

Common sense is key when it comes to running in the summer. Give yourself time to acclimate to the heat, get in the habit of drinking water and sports drink, and run during the coolest part of the day. Finally, cut yourself some slack and slow down! After you've survivd the summer, you will be stronger both mentally and physically.


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