Runners and their shadows

10 Tips for exercising in the heat

Runners and their shadows

“What color is your pee?”

“Straw-colored. Thank you so much for asking. What color is yours?”

“Apple cider. But at least I’m peeing. Hand me the water.”

This was the recent conversation among my friends after we biked on yet another unseasonably hot day. As we stretched out a bit, we asked each other about their pee — the color, the amount, the frequency. It’s our warped way of showing how much we really care about each other.

During this record-breaking hot summer, dehydration and heat illness can quickly become serious problems. The amount of heat your muscles produce can increase 20-fold during exercise as the majority of the energy they create is in the form of heat.

It’s important to keep an eye on the color of your urine, as well as listen to your body and keep an eye on your friends. Stay in the game with these ten tips to beat the heat:

  1. Time your activity so you’re out and about in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler. Plan a route that offers lots of shade. (A good rule of thumb:  if your shadow is shorter than you are, head for shade or indoors.)
  2. Slow down. Take frequent rest breaks, especially if you aren’t used to hot weather. Consider shortening your planned activity. If it’s insanely hot, stay inside. Go to the gym or do laps at a mall.
  3. Stay well hydrated before, during and after your activity. Carry a water bottle around with you and keep one on your desk at work. Drink two to three cups of fluid two hours before exercise to ensure you are hydrated. If you tend to forget to drink during an activity, set your watch to beep every 15 minutes to remind you to drink, or drink every time you see someone else drinking.
  4. Drink cold beverages. Freeze your water bottle or use an insulated container. Consider using a camelback-type device that allows you to carry a large volume of fluid and makes frequent drinking easier. (The entire pack or just the water reservoir can be frozen.)
  5. Reach for a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage rather than plain water, if you’re exercising for longer than an hour.
  6. Pay attention to your urine. You should pee often, and your urine should be light (think lemonade). If your urine is dark and scanty, it’s concentrated — a sign that you are dehydrated.
  7. Dress for success. Wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
  8. Don’t go for the burn.  Use a broad spectrum, water-resistant, breathable sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher. Apply 30 minutes prior to heading out the door and reapply every 2 hours. Sunburns decrease the body’s ability to cool itself.
  9. Know the signs of dehydration and heat illness. They include dry mouth, thirst, small urine volume, irritability, general discomfort, headache, apathy, weakness, dizziness, cramps, chills, vomiting, nausea, irritability, excessive fatigue and/or decreased performance.
  10. Weigh yourself in the buff before and after exercise. For each pound of weight lost, drink 2 cups of fluid. (As low as a 1 percent drop in body weight can impair exercise performance and increase the risk of heat injury.)

Show your friends you really care – ask them about their pee.

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Also see: Family Sunscreen Guide: Tips to have fun in the sun safely (NWF)