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Posted June 9, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Summer moves: Take heed when exercising in heat

Fitness specialist Carolyn Bishop takes a water break
Fitness specialist Carolyn Bishop, 31, of Stephens City, takes a water break in the shade while exercising recently on the grounds of Winchester Medical Center. Rich Cooley/Daily

Bishop runs at Winchester Medical Center
Bishop runs at Winchester Medical Center. Warmer weather brings potential risks during outdoor exercise unless proper precautions are taken. Rich Cooley/Daily

Carolyn Bishop runs
Fitness specialist Carolyn Bishop, 31, of Stephens City, runs along this patch on the Winchester Medical Center campus with a water bottle for hydration. Rich Coolely/Daily

Carolyn Bishop takes a water break
Fitness specialist Carolyn Bishop, 31, of Stephens City, takes a water break in the shade while exercising outside the Winchester Medical Center campus. Rich Coolely/Daily


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By Josette Keelor --jkeelor@nvdaily.com

Whether inspired by the warmer weather and longer days or from watching amazing results televised on "The Biggest Loser" finale, many valley residents will be hitting local trails and roads this summer in an effort to enjoy the sun, spend time with family and get in shape. Health professionals warn, though, that the heat can make exercise more damaging than helpful, if correct precautions are not taken.

Some of the biggest health hazards of exercising outside during the summer are becoming dehydrated, overheating and experiencing heat stroke, says Cajan Reed, a fitness specialist with Valley Health Wellness and Fitness Center at Winchester Medical Center in Winchester.

Stay cool

"Being dehydrated and exercising too long in the heat, they're usually treated just by drinking water and getting into a cool environment in the shade," she says. Unlike with hypothermia in which a victim should be warmed up slowly, Reed says someone suffering from heat exhaustion should be cooled off as quickly as possible.

Headache, nausea and muscle cramps especially in the calves are signs of dehydration from working out, she says and can be alleviated with water, food and rest. Those experiencing these symptoms should first stop exercising, drink water at a normal rate, and cool down their body by moving inside an air-conditioned room or taking a cold bath or shower.

Drinking water before and throughout a workout is a good way to prevent dehydration, she says. Before a strenuous or lengthy outdoor workout, drink 20 to 40 ounces of water within two to three hours of the workout. Then drink water frequently throughout the workout at a steady pace. Avoid gulping the water or drinking too much at a time, she says, because that can cause nausea.

The more they sweat the more they need to drink water, she says. Athletes will weigh themselves before and after exercising to find out how much water they lost, she says.

"The weight that they lost is the weight that they need to gain back in water," she says.

A good rule of thumb, she says, is drinking one liter of water for each kilogram (or about 2.2 pounds) lost.

Avoid the heat

Reed recommends not exercising outside between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., any time, but especially if it's really hot out. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, she says just stay inside for your workout.

"I mean, your taking you're risks," says Jeremy Ryles, a personal trainer with Iron Wizard Media Fitness Personal Training and with The Fitness Zone at the Sportsplex south of Winchester. He warns that it's very easy to misinterpret how hot the weather really is and the risk that it poses to your health.

One of the sneaky health risks is the heat index.

Heat index considers humidity on top of the actual temperature, Reed says. Even if the sun isn't out or the temperature isn't that high, the heat index could suggest that the air will feel much warmer and not be suitable for athletes.

When the heat index is at least 80-90 degrees, it's best to exercise inside.

On days when it's hot and bright, people might be tempted to wear a shirt soaked in water, but Reed says this is a bad idea.

"[It] would act like a blanket almost on your skin," she says. It would hold in the heat and weigh you down, rather than cooling you off, she says. "Wear microfiber or something really porous that has holes, something breathable," she says. Light clothing, in color and weight, is best, she says. Have as much skin exposure as possible, to allow the body to cool itself efficiently, but make sure to wear sunscreen on exposed areas.

Once they have the correct workout wear, they should acclimate themselves to the temperature, she says. Warm up by exercising outside for a short amount of time and hydrating yourself.

The most dangerous results of exercising outside in the heat is heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Reed says if experiencing any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately: Profuse sweating, cold clammy skin, a rise in body temperature, a pale complexion, dizziness, a weak rapid heart rate or shallow breathing. The following are symptoms of heat stroke: no sweating despite being out in hot weather, dry skin, hot skin, a body temperature of 106 degrees, flushed or bright red skin and loss of consciousness.

Eat, drink

"[You] generally want to eat a good-sized meal with plenty of carbohydrates," Ryles says. He says to shoot for at least 45 to 75 grams of carbs, especially if working out hard. Eat about half an hour to 45 minutes before working out, and choose something with simple carbohydrates like fruit, but don't wait too long, or you will lose the energy boost.

"Definitely get into carbohydrate sources, cause that's gonna be your energy source," Ryles says. Pasta and rice are good options, especially when added to a serving of protein.

Fruit is also a good choice because of its high water content, Reed says.

Eating after exercising is also important for replenishing nutrients to refuel the body, she says.

"Everybody should be eating ... pretty much the same types of foods in the same ration," Ryles says.

He says 60 percent of your food intake should be from carbohydrates, 20 percent from protein and another 20 percent from good fats, like olive oil or nuts.

"You do want to take in the adequate sodium [before a workout]," he says. Sports drinks like Gatorade can provide this, he says, but if sodium is in your food, and you're drinking enough water, he says sports drinks are not needed.

Mainly, when it comes to food and water, think about how much is necessary for fueling your workout and later replenishing your body, and don't overdo it.

"Yes, water's very important, but you don't want to drink too much, you know, before starting," he says.

Outdoor quick tips

Remember these quick tips when planning an outdoor summer workout:

* Always warm up and let your body adjust to the warmer weather. Don't start out too fast, ease into things and then get going.

* Avoid the hottest times of the day. Exercise outside in the morning or late afternoons if possible.

* There are benefits to drinking electrolyte replacement drinks. Many contain extra calories and sugars. The best kinds have no sugar or preservatives.

* Keep in mind your exercise capacity, especially in the heat. If you start to feel sick or dizzy, go inside immediately.

-- Source: Jeremy Ryles, personal trainer with The Fitness Zone at the Sportsplex, south of Winchester

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