Tips for Training in the Summer Heat

The South Florida heat in summer is relentless, mixed with stifling humidity that lingers between passing thunderstorms. These are not exactly prime conditions for beginning outdoor training if your are a would-be marathoner, or even an high school student getting into shape before football practice begins.

Nonetheless, thousands of teens and adults of all ages brave the South Florida summer, and possibly set themselves up for hydration-related sickness because they don’t prepare sufficiently to combat the effects of heat on the body. Also, serious foot, leg or knee injuries can occur as a result of improper conditioning.

Marathon Training in Summer

The Miami Marathon and Half Marathon is about six months away, but first-time marathoners begin training during summer, especially if their goal is the full 26.2 miles by January’s big event. Trainers recommend at least six months to slowly build up the stamina and technique required for long runs of several miles at a time.

“Since the Miami Marathon is in January, local runners most likely train in the heat and humidity of the summer months,” says Osnat Shmueli, M.D., Baptist Health Medical Group physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “So by the time the event comes around in January, they’ll know what they need and how much they can tolerate in terms of fluid intake.”

Proper hydration is the key to avoid heat-related fatigue or worse. Hydration also keeps muscles from cramping up, which can result in injuries.

Meanwhile, U.S. high school athletes are even more susceptible to problems from heat-related overtraining. Heat illness during practice or competition is a leading cause of death and disability among U.S. high school athletes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Protecting Young Athletes

But with proper training, practice scheduling, water intake, rest periods and emergency treatment available on the sidelines, most young athletes can safely participate in outdoor sports in South Florida, according to Michael Swartzon, M.D., a primary care physician at Doctors Hospital’s Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends youth sports programs implement strategies to protect athletes. One component is the requirement that all student-athletes undergo a medical examination by a physician before participating in preseason practices.

The National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) has issued guidelines on how to acclimatize athletes to hot-weather activity over a 14-day period. Among the recommendations: No more than one practice per day for the first five days; no equipment beyond a helmet the first two days; and no more than a helmet and shoulder pads on days three through five. Coaches should allow free access to water and sports drinks.

Generally, when it comes to amateur athletes of all ages, there are two different types of sports training injuries that are related to improper conditioning — traumatic injuries (a fracture or a ligament tear) and overuse injuries, Dr. Swartzon says.

“Overuse injuries are easier to prevent,” he says. “Start out slowly, and gradually increase the time, distance, intensity and frequency of your activity by no more than 10 percent as you become stronger and more flexible.”

Insufficient hydration can also contribute to overuse injuries.

Here are tips for amateur runners who are beginning to train for a marathon or half-marathon this summer:

Pre-Run Hydration
Make sure to drink about 8 to 16 ounces of fluid to properly prepare for long training runs.
A general guideline for long-distance runners is to drink 3 to 6 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes. This averages out to consuming a cup of water or a sports drink every other mile.

Know Your ‘Sweat Rate’
The most accurate way for figuring out your fluid need is to take a sweat-rate test during your training. Weigh yourself without clothes before and after a one-hour run. Convert the amount of weight lost to ounces to figure out your sweat rate per hour. A loss of one pound means you sweated about 16 ounces of fluid (assuming you didn’t drink any fluids during the run. Otherwise, you would take into account any fluids taken). You should try to replenish fluids at a rate of about 16 ounces per hour.

Chase Your Energy Gels with Water
If you take those “energy” gels with a sports drink, then you risk ingesting too much sugar, which can cause stomach cramps or even diarrhea. If you take gels, chase them down with water. Remember that sports drinks generally provide the same electrolytes that are in gels.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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