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Both the calendar and the thermometer tell us that summer has officially arrived in Superior California. The sweltering conditions can make outdoor activity uncomfortable and potentially hazardous, but you don’t have to fall back on the lame “it’s too hot to exercise” excuse.
I’m not a doctor, a coach or even a particularly good athlete, but I do work out every day regardless of weather conditions. Over the years (OK, decades) I’ve come up with my own ways of coping with the heat while running, cycling and hiking.
Most of these suggestions are simply common sense. But the higher the mercury climbs, the quicker common sense seems to leave us. So consider this a refresher:
• Go early. I’m not a morning person, but every time I drag myself out of bed extra early in the summer, I’m glad I did. The sun is low, the temperature is pleasant and there’s none of that dead-of-summer ambiance. Really, you can’t get started too early. My buddy Brian Garcia is known to start long runs at 4 a.m. with a headlamp strapped to his noggin.
• Go late. This is a more realistic strategy for me. Yes, it’s hotter at 7 p.m. than 7 a.m., but I like that the temperature falls as the workout progresses. It invites me to keep going, unlike mornings, when a rising temperature can be discouraging.
• Get on your bike. I enjoy the breeze that cycling generates. When it really is too hot to run, I ride my bike.
• Seek shade. It’s not the temperature that drains me, it’s the direct sun. When I’m running this time of year, I seek out trails with lots of trees and hillsides that block the sun. If I’m going to be out for a while, I hurry through the sunny stretches and slow down or even pause in the shady sections of trail. Mountain biking can be a better choice than road cycling because trails usually have more shade than roads.
• Get wet. Nothing beats jumping in a lake or lying down in a creek. You’ll reduce your skin and core body temperature and you’ll refresh quickly. It doesn’t matter if you’re only 5 miles into a 10-miler. Your shoes and clothes will dry quickly enough. At the very least, dunk your cap in the water.
• Ice it. Put a few cubes under your cap. I know women who, during the middle of the day, load up their sports bras with ice. Male or female, you can fold ice cubes into a bandana and tie it around your neck, or get one of those nifty bandanas with pockets for ice.
• Drink up. Start hydrating before you exercise and then keep chugging during and after. If you fall behind on hydration when the heat is on, it’s very difficult to get caught up while exercising. On long runs this time of year, I gulp water or sports drink at least once every eight minutes. If you’re going to be out for a while, make sure to replace electrolytes and sodium with sports drinks or capsules. Experiment to find what tastes good and sits best with your stomach.
• Slow down. Unless you’re a heat-trained, elite athlete, don’t attempt to maintain the same pace when it’s 90 degrees as when it’s 55. All you’ll do is overheat and cut the workout short.
• Caps, hats, sunscreen and white clothing are your friends. Blocking the sun prevents sunburn and keeps you cooler. However, some thick sunscreens cause the skin to retain heat. Experiment to see what works best for you. The black shirts, caps and shorts stay in my drawer this time of year.
• Avoid cotton. This is a good rule all of the time, because cotton retains moisture. There are all kinds of synthetic fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin, keeping you cooler and reducing chafing. Get yourself some shorts, tops and socks made of this stuff.
• Get high. The higher the elevation, the cooler the temperature. The coast is even milder, but Lassen and Mt. Shasta are closer to Redding, Red Bluff and Chico than Trinidad is.
• Go swimming. This is the season to find out why the experts say swimming is excellent exercise.
• Chill out. If you think you’re overdoing it or start to feel lightheaded, cut the workout short. Get out of the sun, power down some cold fluids, find some air conditioning, lose those sweaty clothes, jump in a lake or cold shower, suck on a popsicle, do whatever is necessary to cool off and rehydrate. Heat stroke is no joke.
I should mention that all of the above suggestions go not only for outdoor exercise, but for any outdoor labor. If you have other tips, feel free to add them to the comments below.
On today’s A La Carte menu:
Cone zone … Caltrans has temporarily halted all routine and regularly scheduled highway maintenance projects while it revisits and reinforces safety procedures, and gives the public a blunt reminder. The “stand down” was prompted by the death of three Caltrans workers in Southern California during the last seven weeks, the most recent on Monday morning while a maintenance man collected trash at the junction of Interstate 15 and Highway 94 in San Diego. Here’s a suggestion whenever you see someone working on a road: Slow the heck down.
Don’t whoop it up … Under a new law intended to stem the spread of whooping cough, children entering seventh through 12th grade this coming school year must have received a Tdap booster shot. Check your kid’s immunization record. If it says DtaP, DT or Td, your kid needs a shot, according to public health officials. Shasta County Public Health is offering Tdap clinics specifically for students starting in July. Call the agency to make an appointment, (530) 225-5591.
Paul Shigley is a freelance journalist based in Western Shasta County, CA, and is thankful that at least it’s a dry heat. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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