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Running in the Heat

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It's that time of year again that Floridians feel coming around the corner: hot, humid, rainy, Florida summer. For most people it can be an inconvenience but for some it can be a real danger. For runners though, it can be a mixed blessing.

To find out how to stay safe and make the most out of this Summer for runners, we contacted AdventHealth's own Lauren Sperling, Physical Therapy Assistant and 20-year veteran runner, for advice.

The most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated, Sperling said. Runners should always drink a glass of water before running and bring water with them to drink as they go. CamelBaks or similar products are great but a bottle of water works just as well. With temperatures easily reaching the high 80's even in the morning and with humidity as high as 100 percent, the risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion is very real. High humidity is dangerous because you don't sweat as much as you normally would when it's humid, and the body relies on sweating for cooling down your body.

Lauren recommends running in the morning or evening hours when temperatures are generally lower than the blazing afternoon heat but, If your schedule doesn't allow for it and you find yourself having to run in the afternoon sun, you should find a path with shade, make sure you're wearing at least an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen, and take regular walking breaks to rehydrate and cool down.

Sports drinks or waters enhanced with electrolytes are also recommended and, If you don't want that much sugar from your sports drink you can do what I do and cut it with half water. That way you still get some of the energy and the electrolytes but with less calories, Sperling said.

Training in the Summer should be less about your pace or times and more about how you feel doing it. Running in high humidity slows runner's times dramatically and can be very discouraging and frustrating but you really shouldn't let it get to you. Come Fall, your times will be back where you expect them to be or even better for having trained in harsh conditions, Sperling said encouragingly.

It can take somewhere between two weeks to a month to acclimate to the heat and humidity and everyone's different, so don't be too hard on yourself. For me, it takes about a month or a little longer some years to get back to my normal runs. But by fall, I'm back in top form and ready to race, Sperling added.

As for proper shoes and clothing for running in the Florida heat and humidity, Lauren recommends stopping by AdventHealth partner, Track Shack, at 1104 N. Mills Ave. in Orlando. They've got a great selection of products and a knowledgeable staff that can advise you on getting the right gear for your run, any time of the year. But for summer months she advises wearing well-ventilated shoes with clothing that breathes well and wicks moisture away.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

If you experience the following symptoms you should immediately move to a cooler place, stop exercising, and cool down by pouring chilled water over your head, ears, neck and wrists or use wet cloths, compresses, and fanning. If symptoms persist, you may need to seek medical attention.

Watch for:

  • Cool, moist skin
  • Dark urine
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness

If symptoms worsen, seek medical attention immediately by calling 911 (or your local emergency number) right away. Worsening symptoms can include:

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

For questions about running or starting a workout plan that's appropriate for you, visit AHSportsMed.com or call Call407-303-8080 to talk to one of our qualified physical therapists or exercise physiologists.

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