It’s Summer again (finally) and it’s probably going to be a long and hot one. I hope that you enjoy the warm weather both in and outside the gym, so here’s some tips to keep you from getting sick and injured because of the heat.
First, acclimate. It takes most people one to two weeks to acclimate to the heat, so don’t be shy about actually going out and spending some time outside. Continue your normal workout and recreation schedule, but modify intensity as needed.
The most dangerous heat-related injuries that you can get are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. When you’re working out or playing in the heat, it’s best to do so with a group of people who can recognize the signs and symptoms. Just like hypothermia, heat injuries can effect your cognitive functions so sometimes you don’t even know when you’re getting sick. These injuries typically happen in three stages: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here are the typical symptoms:
Heat cramps - cramping of major muscle groups, usually due to lack of salt caused by excessive sweating. You can usually prevent heat cramps by acclimatizing to the heat and maintaining good nutrition and hydration.
Heat exhaustion - heavy sweating, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting, tingling sensations in the extremities. Sounds like the aftermath of a good workout, which is why you need to be extra careful when exercising during the Summer.
Heat stroke - usually progresses after heat exhaustion, weakness and lethargy, confusion, hot and dry skin (absence of sweating is a late-stage symptom), weak and rapid heart rate, rapid breathing and unconsciousness.
Prevention and treatment are pretty much common sense. Make sure you’re acclimated to the heat, don’t spend excessive amounts of time in the heat, stay properly hydrated and make sure to eat. As for treating early stages of heat illnesses, get the person out of the heat and give them something to drink and something to replenish electrolytes (sports drink or some food with salt in it). For more severe cases, get the person out of the heat and get them to a hospital ASAP.
Heat injuries are the most severe, but probably the least common of injuries associated with the Summer. Don’t discount the lesser things that can happen, as well. Probably the easiest to overlook is sunburn. I know we’re all eager to go synthesize some vitamin D, but don’t overdo it. A nasty sunburn will slow you down for a week or so (and set you up for the above-discussed heat illnesses) by messing up your thermoregulation system.
Whether you’re enjoying the Summer heat in the gym, or putting your functional fitness to use in other activities, stay safe!