Well here, we are in July & it’s not only the Southern states lately that are baking in the sun. From DC up to New York, & even here in Alabama many contractors and others found out that a dry heat can quite simply kick your butt. Unlike a high humidity day where the sweat just clings to you – letting you know how unbearable it is – you might not realize you are in trouble until it is too late. As an ex-racer & one who used to live in Arizona, we offer the following tips & tricks for all the weekend warriors or even pros to help you stay safe when the temperatures climb.
The human body is an amazing self-regulating machine. Unfortunately, when the temperature starts climbing, your body may not be able to keep regulate its core temperature through sweating only. People suffer various heat-related illnesses when the body’s temperature rises rapidly and is not brought down. In extreme cases, you can suffer brain damage and/or cause major problems with other vital organs.
As most people know, when it is very humid out, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, which can prevent the body from releasing that heat. In a “dry heat” environment, you may be sweating like there is no tomorrow (or in some cases not realize how much you have sweated out), but in many cases it is simply evaporating and may also not be enough. Another issue is that when there is a wind, it can quite simply feel like you stuck your head in a convection oven especially if you are working on a roof or walking across a parking lot due to the radiated heat.
First off, a nice ice cold Coke, ice tea or even a bear tastes great, but you should save those until you are done for the day. Second, drinking water only is a no-no if you will be working or exercising outside for more than an hour. You need to replace potassium and other electrolytes that you are sweating out in great quantities. In many cases, this may be very noticeable by a white band on the brim of your hat, or the collar of your shirt. I generally prefer Gatorade or Powerade sports drinks mixed with some water to help eliminate the sweet taste. (Ice cold they are great straight, when it has been in a water bottle & has crept up to the outside temperature – you will understand)
You should also be drinking around 4 to 8 ounces of liquids every 15 minutes. If you wait until you are thirsty, it is too late & you will never truly catch up. One way that a cyclist or other athlete monitors if they have drank enough, is by using a simple scale – weigh yourself in the morning & once you are done. If you have lost more than a pound, you need to increase your uptake. If you lose 3 or more pounds, you are seriously dehydrated. Do not try kidding yourself that you are burning or loosing fat, it is only water.
One word – worthless. If you simply eat & drink properly, you should never get anywhere close to where you “need” them.
Small meals, snacking through the day, and eating fruits & vegetables are your friend. I personally avoid dairy products early in the AM if I will be outside all day. Heavy and / or large meals take time to digest & require energy (i.e. heat) to process.
Wear a hat, there is a reason why wide-brimmed hats like the famous cowboy hats are popular in the south. They help keep the sun off your face & neck. Generally, wearing lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing is your best option. Sunglasses are another important item, as they help not only protect your eyes from the UV rays, but also from drying out.
If you get a sunburn, you have dramatically affected your body’s ability to cool itself. On top of that, they do not feel that great and you have damaged your skin, which can lead to certain cancers and other problems. Wear sunscreen – I generally prefer the NO-AD sports sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher.
Pace yourself & Listen to your body:
If you are unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity, get into a cool area, or at least in the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, feel clammy, stop sweating, cramp up, get confused, feel weak, or faint. In the extreme heat, expect work to take awhile longer (sometimes up to twice as long) & that does not include periods of rest.
Bring the shade & wind to you:
In Phoenix during the summer, it was hard to get training miles in. One trick I used to do was to attend a Tuesday & Thursday night rides. Even though the temperature was still above 100 degrees on many of those nights, it was not that bad due to the sun going down & the constant air movement from riding. For many contractors that do this for a living, we will set up shade structures & utilize fans whenever possible.
If at all possible, try to get the chores done early in the morning. In Phoenix & Tucson, we would start around 4 AM if at all possible & stop for the day around noontime. If you have a large project to do, try to schedule the parts that require the heavy lifting early and the easier tasks later in the day. The reason for this is that when you are doing all this heavy lifting, you are using your muscles that in turn produce heat. If you can take care of those earlier in the day when it is cool out, your chances of overheating are greatly reduced.
- A cool shower or bath is an effective way to cool off at the end of the day.
- During the day, dunking your shirt & hat in cool water is a good way to help cool off.
- During break times, find a nice shady spot to relax in – if it is windy great, if not try to utilize a fan to help keep yourself cool. If you have a bandana, or wash cloth – wet it down & place it over your face.
The dog day’s of summer was nicely provided to us by Jason Whipple of Historic House Restoration, llc.