Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Handling heat

It wasn't that long ago that I was a resident of southern Florida. People there like to call it South Florida, like it's an entirely different state from North Florida, which it probably would be if it weren't for the evil conspiracy to keep down the people of Palm Beach County. There were some serious problems there, but I'm getting off topic... So, I lived there for a few years, and South Florida and I got along smashingly.

When I first arrived, I was working with a Vietnam-era soldier from Tennessee who had lots of stories to tell and advice for a young Canadian trying out life in the USA. We would go for runs in the morning in the middle of the summer, then stop by Dunkin' Donuts and get a dozen donuts to split between us and another ex-soldier that liked to run. We were getting in shape.

One of the first things he told me was to beware of the heat. "Just like you'd stop me from running around without a coat in the middle of the winter up there in Canada, I gotta stop you from doing something stupid in the heat here. The heat is dangerous."

It was a stern enough warning that after a few more severe headaches and afternoons where I didn't want to get up off the ceramic floor, I started to listen.

After I learned a few things, and went through an adjustment period, I was pretty comfortable in the heat. Playing sports in the low 90's F (33 or 34 C) became pretty commonplace for me, like it is for a lot of Floridians.

All this preamble is to pass on the most important thing I learned down there to handle the heat well: drink a lot of water! And do it well before you exercise in the heat, as in hours before. Obvious isn't it? But it's not something you can forget, and it's not something you can leave until the last minute. The best thing to do is to drink quite a bit of water the night before you expect to exercise. If you accidentally drink a lot of alcohol the night before, then you'll feel it. I found that just about every headache I had was because I hadn't drank enough water.

Just to be clear, I'm not a nurse, or a doctor, and I only took biology up to grade 11. We're all different and maybe you need to avoid the heat altogether. I don't know. I'm writing this here because it made a huge difference for me.

The electrolyte issue is another thing to keep in mind if you're exercising a lot and drinking a lot of fluids. Here's some Texan advice, probably a much better source than me. There have been a couple stories in the news lately about people running marathons and dying because of hyponatremia (new word!). The news can blow things out of proportion, but it's still worth being careful, even if it is just to avoid a splitting late-afternoon headache.

One more lesson I learned: if you're sweating, it's a very good thing.

Darren J 8/01/2006 01:04:00 p.m.


What were you doing down there? Were you working for Jeb Bush? This entry reminds me of your turning-purple dehydration episode in high school. :)
I don't mind the heat at all. I don't think the heat has ever really kicked my ass while cycling.

This summer and last summer I've noticed I get a little short of breath occasionally though. :( yesterday was the first time it happened to me this year. Then I just slow down for a bit.

I was a sweaty mess when I arrived at work today. I can't say I ever really felt over-heated on my ride in. I think the body is pretty awesome at regulating itself. Sweat + the cycling breeze is enough to keep me cool most of the time. I just don't like stopping, or slogging up long hills when it's hot!

Good reminder to keep hydrated...I should start on that now before my ride home.

So...let's hear about this "turning purple" episode. heh.
I can't remember too much... all I remember was him going to the hospital ... kind of scary.

Oh, and I'm drinking lots of water before biking home tonight. Thanks Darren.
Oh, the dehydration problem. That was because President George Bush III, in the year 2024, sent an android back in time to kill me, in order to stop me from derailing the successful presidency of his father, Jeb. (It will be very embarassing.) I foiled his plans, but I've been sensitive about dehydration ever since.
Oh yeah... I don't know how I could've forgotten. That was pretty neat.

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