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Coaches Blog

Heat Exhaustion: What To Do

Note: I'm not a doctor or medical professional. I'm just an athlete and a coach with temperature regulation issues. I sometimes get too hot and want to share some strategies I've learned.


It's hot out—even up in the mountains. It's not supposed to be…but it is… While doing my strength training workout the other day (out in the sun, where it's hot), I began to feel overheated. I immediately took a break in the shade and drank some cool water, but while doing so, I realized how much trouble I would have been in if I hadn't recognized the signs. 


I need to be especially careful because I have a few temperature regulation issues stemming from my brain injury.


When training for endurance events in the summer, it's vital to be in tune with your body's responses to heat. The last thing you want is to miss out on a race due to heat-related illness. Here are some key signs to watch for during your workouts:


  • Sweat rate: Am I sweating too much? Excessive sweating can be a sign that you're getting overheated. I know my body, and I don't sweat a ton, so if I'm sweating a "normal" amount to an outside observer, it's too much for me, and I need to take a break.

  • Skin Look/Feel: Is it clammy? Flushed? Pale? Bright red? These can be warning signs your body is struggling to regulate your core temperature.

  • Pulse rate: Is your pulse quick and not coming down within a reasonable time? Is it weak?

  • Do you have a headache? Feel nauseous? Dizzy? Are you cramping?


If you feel any of these, please consider stopping your training session and taking a break. The following is a list of things I do to bring my temperature regulation back under control:


  • Find shade and sit in it out of the sun

  • Put your arms above your head and focus on calm breathing

  • Drink water

  • Put a bag of ice on your neck, chest, or back

  • Take off any extra clothing


Doing this has allowed me to avoid heat exhaustion. While I've needed to cut a couple of key training sessions short, I've avoided longer downtime from a heat-related injury or illness.


Heat exhaustion symptoms will improve within about 30 minutes for most people. However, you should seek medical attention if your symptoms don't improve after 30 to 60 minutes. While most people fully recover from a case of heat exhaustion within 24 to 48 hours, more severe cases may require IV fluids and electrolytes.


Hopefully, as summer approaches, you'll be able to stave off any heat-related troubles and focus on training, racing, and enduring!

 

Coach Becky Piper is a USAT Certified LII Paratriathlon and Triathlon Coach living in Michigan with her husband Sam and her dog named Moose. She is a para triathlete and para cyclist and has plans to try her hand at para-dog sled racing. Her true passion is coaching athletes to reach their best selves - both in endurance sports and beyond! Coach Becky can be reached at becky@teammpi.com.

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