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When it Feels Like you are Running through the Saharan Desert...Oh Wait it is Only the Texas Heat

If you live in the southern parts of the U.S., you know how incredibly hot it can be in the summer months. Here in Houston Texas, we easily top out at temps above 100 degrees and with the heat index (i.e. relative humidity + temp), it can feel like 105 F (40 C) or hotter. Last week, I learned first hand how brutal the heat can be when I made the not so wise decision to start my long run at 11 am when the heat index climbed to 104 F! The plan was simple, run 12 mile easy at ~2 minutes slower than marathon goal pace (MGP), with 1 bottle of my usual fuel (UCAN) and electrolytes (The Right Stuff electrolytes). After the first 5 miles though, I ended up having to stop about every mile or so to rest in the shade, drink water, even stopping for a snow cone (YES- a must)!! The run didn't go as planned, but I learned a few valuable lessons...

  1. It's okay to adjust your goals/plans mid-run

  2. I underestimated my fluid & electrolyte needs

  3. Heat exhaustion can happen to anyone, no matter your fitness or experience level


  1. My Adjustments. When I got overheated, I adjusted my plan. I planned on running 12 miles, but had to knock 2 miles off because I was too hot and it was unsafe to continue. My goals also had to change. My goal was to stay within 2 minutes of MGP, but I was overheated and ended up running 2:30 - 3 minutes slower than MGP. Adjust your plans and goals. Just because you have a specific plan or set a goal for a run or workout, it doesn't mean you will always achieve it in exactly the way you have it laid out in your mind; and that's okay. I think part of being an athlete at any level, is understanding things don't always go according to your plan, but being flexible and having alternative routes to get you where you want to go is key.

  2. Being dehydrated hurts performance slowing you down and decreasing your ability to do work. It can negatively affect concentration, mood, reaction times, and leave you fatigued. performance​​2. Determine your fluid & electrolyte needs. Crucial at any point during the season (hot or cold temps) because hydration plays a huge factor in athletic Up to 60% of a person's body weight is made of water with 90% being located in blood (plasma). During the summer months, when temps crest above 90 F, staying hydrated becomes even more important because loss of fluid from blood plasma strains the cardiovascular system making it harder for your body to pump blood and nutrients to working muscles and your brain. Hydrate before your outdoor exercise session. Starting 4 hours before your workout, begin hydrating. Remember: Hydration needs are specific to an individual's body weight. Recovery: Measure your post-run fluid needs. One of the easiest ways to determine how much fluid you need after a workout is to weigh yourself before and after a run. The difference in pre and post run weights is what you need to replace. Rule of Thumb: For every 1 pound lost, drink 24 oz of fluids. And even if you are not a heavy salt sweater, make sure your recovery drink has sodium- it's the major electrolyte lost in sweat. Prevent Heat Exhaustion. According to the Korey Stinger Institute, "Heat exhaustion is the most common heat-related condition observed in athletes to recreational hikers."

It is the inability to continue exercise in the heat due to:

  1. Cardiovascular Insufficiency (not enough blood pumped to the heart). ​​​Cardiovascular insufficiency refers to when the heart has difficulty providing enough oxygenated blood to all the working organs and muscles and is exacerbated by dehydration via extreme sweating without replacing fluids during exercise.

  2. Energy depletion that may or may not be associated with physical collapse.


  • Acclimatize. Adapt to exercise in the heat gradually over 10-14 days by progressively increasing duration and intensity of work in hot conditions

  • Recognize Symptoms. Signs & symptoms indicate the need to slow, modify, or stop activity before a medical emergency arises

  • Stay Hydrated. Being adequately hydrated before and during exercise can help prevent heat illnesses. Maintaining blood volume is key in the prevention of heat exhaustion.

  • Stop & Take A Break. Work to rest ratios based on environmental conditions can help prevent heat illnesses. As temps rise, increase the frequency & time of rest breaks.

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