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Race season is well underway with everyone from newbies to well-conditioned runners training to cross finish lines this summer. Whether you’re participating in a fun-themed 5K or looking to add to your marathon medals, it’s important to take cautionary steps when training in the hot summer months to prevent heat from overstressing your heart.
On a hot day, your body—especially your heart—works hard to shed all that extra heat.
Heat naturally moves from warm areas to cooler ones. It’s why an open refrigerator door does nothing to cool off the room that it is in. Your body radiates heat to the air when the temperature around you is cooler. But on a very hot day, the heat has nowhere to go. Your body now has to work overtime to cool down.
To regulate your temperature, your body will begin to reroute blood flow to the surface of your skin. Your heart has to beat faster when this happens to make sure muscles and organs are still getting the same amount of blood they’re used to.
The heart is already working harder to keep up on hot days. If you’re going to add exercise on top of that added stress, you need to think about more than just beating your personal best.
Here are some tips to prevent overstressing your heart in the heat:
Hydrate early and often. When there’s heat and exercise, there’s sweat. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling you down. It’s important to replenish your body from all the fluid it’s losing through perspiration. Staying well-hydrated also helps your heart more easily pump blood through your blood vessels to your muscles. Don’t play catch up with hydration; once you’re dehydrated, it’s difficult to get your fluids back to normal levels. Remember to drink water before you run to lessen strain on your heart.
Let there be light. Running attire matters, especially in the heat. Wear both light-colored and loose-fitting clothing to help your body stay cool. Breathable fabrics with mesh panels or air vents will help increase air flow while running. You don’t want to wear anything that prevents evaporation of sweat or interferes with the body’s ability to cool itself.
Listen to your heart. If you’re on a run and you feel your heart rate jump or have sudden chest pain, slow things down. Find some shade, drink some water and adjust your speed. If chest pain is crushing or squeezing, call 9-1-1. You can’t expect to adhere to your usual training routine on a hot day. Running in the heat requires you to adjust your expectations. Be realistic about the conditions and don’t push yourself to the point of extreme dehydration or heat illness.
Make sure your heart is in its best shape for this summer’s season and get screened by Inspira’s highly-trained cardiovascular team. Make an appointment!