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There's no reason to fear summer

Posted by: pshields on Wednesday, July 13, 2005 - 09:26 AM Print article Printer-friendly page  Email to a friend

There's no reason to fear summer

July 12, 2005


Allow me to be contrarian: Summer is your friend.

Yes, I've heard of heat stroke.

And heard of exercisers dropping in the sun -- like the 60-year-old man who collapsed while running last month. He was taken to Crittenton Hospital in Rochester, then released after a night of observation.

"He seemed to be properly hydrated," a hospital spokeswoman told me. He received no special advice other than: Next time you feel faint, please stop running! A good rule for anyone, at any time.

But those who use common sense can find that now's a great time to exercise outside.

First, we don't need bulky clothing. We're safer, too, with nothing slippery underfoot and often some company along our path. And all the while, drivers are seeing us clearly in the long hours of daylight. We're also at less injury risk because our muscles are pre-warmed by the heat.

Finally, it's just a lot more relaxing to run now than in the cold, as long as there's water to drink -- before, during and after a workout.

The problems occur when summer runners -- and walkers -- go to extremes, says exercise physiologist Richard Lampman, PhD. That includes working out when you haven't had enough water or you've had way too much -- the latter is common to first-time marathoners. Problems also arise when you're weak from hunger or lack of sleep, or trying a long workout in the heat after training in air conditioning.

One caution is to build up hot weather workouts gradually. Those runners who plan to race this time of year "need to train in the heat to acclimatize," says Lampman, a research director at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital near Ann Arbor.

That's because research shows that athletes who train in the heat adapt to it. Lampman admits that he once trained for summer races by overdressing to a ridiculous degree on his spring workouts.

Based on the advertising, it's easy to assume you'll want a sports drink, one of those potions with bracing names like Gatorade, Powerade and Accelerade. The inescapable hype seems aimed even at non-exercisers.

There is a time and place for these drinks, which are simply water with added carbohydrates and the salts lost in sweat, called electrolytes. Yet research generally finds they're needed only for uninterrupted exercise of an hour or more.

It used to shock me that anyone could drink too much water. But it happened to Laura Sophiea of Pleasant Ridge, the 2001 world champion woman master's Ironman triathlete.

In 1998, at the Hawaii Ironman, Sophiea heard the advice of those days: "Drink, drink, drink." So she drank too much water, then "fell apart" during the marathon segment of the grueling event, vomiting much of what she'd swallowed.

Now she knows how much to drink. And she takes electrolyte tablets, such as Endurolytes, to avoid depleting her sodium level in ultra-long events.

I'm a big fan of eating more from the orchard and field than from the factory. I'd advise recreational runners who aren't running against a clock to get a sports drink-like fix an hour before a run from, say, a banana and a glass of water.

Then, avoid issues with carbonation by waiting until after a run to quaff a non-alcoholic beer, such as Old Milwaukee NA. No kidding. Its ingredients nearly match those of many sports drinks, says Bob Newman of Allentown, Pa., a brewmaster for Pabst Brewing Co.

See? Summer running really can be refreshing.

Detroit Free Press

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