You Need to Moderate Your Exercise in Extreme Heat

Extreme heat is really the ultimate test for someone committed to a healthy lifestyle that includes some kind of daily exercise. The recent heat wave in Chicago proved very difficult for me. I wanted to recount my actions on the final day of it because I made some mistakes that you might be able to avoid by reading this.

On Sunday the weather forecast was for another plus 100 degree day, extending our recent heat wave. We had already had at least a half dozen deaths from the heat, the youngest of which was 53 years old. Being considerably older than that, I was a bit nervous about riding.

In the past I have been able to finesse extreme heat by rising at the crack of dawn and getting my bike ride in ahead of the sun’s full blast later. On Sunday, I was out on the bike just after 6:00 a.m. So far so good, however, the temperature had already crossed the 80 degree mark with high humidity. I realized it was hot, but thought it was still 20 degrees under the 100 forecast for later.

Besides rising early, I also tried to accommodate the heat in other ways. I soaked a bandanna in cold water and wrapped it around my head. I wore another cold-water soaked bandanna around my neck. To the extent possible, I rode in the shade as opposed to direct sun. Because I ride on the lakefront there are water fountains at regular intervals. When I felt troubled by the heat I would stop at a fountain and fill my dog’s bowl with water and pour it on each of my arms to lower my body temperature. Also, sometimes I poured it over my head. You can see that I felt I was meeting the heat head on. I thought I was holding my own.

So, with all that good stuff going on, how did I goof up?

Here’s how.

Normally, when I ride, I pedal at a rate that puts my heart into the target zone. I don’t ride slow to sight see. I ride to feel the air rushing by and hear my tires whirring across the asphalt. The problem turned out to be that in even this reduced extreme heat and humidity, I didn’t realize that riding at my normal speed was excessive in this temperature because of the added drain on my body from the heat. Also, I was fooled by the fact that riding through the wind was cooling me slightly. As soon as I stopped, however, I felt like I was burning up. My body was pulsing with heat. Pouring the water on my arms brought down my temperature, but I could tell that the heat was sapping me of energy.

I quit the ride early after only 16 miles. I felt as if I had ridden three times that distance.

I went home and showered for a long time to bring my body temperature back down. This is another technique I have learned. After you finish washing and rinsing in the shower. Slowly lower the temperature of the water. I don’t mean to shock your body with a blast of frigid water. That couldn’t be good for you. But gradually reduce the temperature of the water and you will feel your body cooling with it. I don’t think I get the temp much below room temperature, but it is sufficiently cool to reduce my body’s heat.

I also ate a quarter of a watermelon to rehydrate myself. You can read the benefits of watermelon here.

The bottom line is that no matter how many precautions you take, always pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. The idea of the exercise is to benefit you, not put you in the hospital.

I hope you can use my mistake to benefit yourself in your own exercise program.

For more on with extreme heat check out my Page – How to Deal With Extreme Heat.


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Filed under aging, Exercise, extreme heat

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