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Stay Safe & Keep Your Cool!

As we kick off a week filled with high temperatures and humidity, I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday to remind everyone how to recognize heat-related illnesses. Sometimes water, electrolytes, sunscreen and a good hat aren’t enough to prevent an emergency – especially if you’re exercising outdoors.

As someone who always sweats, these dog days of summer in New York City (and the rest of the concrete jungles across the country) can make being away from the air conditioning unbearable after just a few minutes. If you catch me coming out of the subway or leaving an ILoveKickboxing or Physique57 class, no doubt you’ll think I just stepped out of a sauna.

Here are some timely reminders if you or someone you’re start feeling out of sorts in the heat:

Heat cramps: These are painful muscle spasms, usually in the legs or abdominal region, that could be a signal that a more serious emergency is imminent.

What to do: If you experience heat cramps, stop exercising immediately. Find some shade or move indoors where it’s cool and drink water.

Heat exhaustion: This is more severe than heat cramps, and can occur when you’ve been exercising strenuously for a long period of time in extreme heat or humidity. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Moist, pale, or cool skin
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Nausea
  • Weak pulse

What to do: Get out of the heat, loosen all tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels, but not to the point of shivering. Also, be sure to get some cool water into your system.

Heat stroke: This is the most severe heat emergency and usually happens when signs of heat exhaustion go unchecked.  In this situation, dangerously high internal temperatures will cause your body’s vital systems to fail.  Signs and symptoms include:

  • Altered level of consciousness
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Little or no perspiration
  • Weakness
  • Rapid pulse

What to do: Get out of the heat, loosen tight clothing and cool the body with wet towels. If you can find them, you can also put ice packs under the armpits and groin area.

Now that we’ve identified the emergencies, here are a few reminders on how to keep them from happening in the first place:

  • Try to exercise outdoors before 9 am and after 6 pm.
  • Stay hydrated! Basic guidelines call for you to drink 16 oz of water two hours before exercise, but you can drink an additional eight to 16 oz  if you’re exercising in warmer weather. At this time of year, you’ll never find me leaving the house without two things: my refillable Avon39 water bottle and a bottle of BFit Labs electrolyte sprays. My repeat readers will know I’ve been using the zero-calorie, zero sugar, gluten-free sprays for a couple of years now and I can honestly say I have more energy and fewer muscle cramps during my workouts. They also help me feel less sluggish on the sultry summer days.  If you want more information or are interested in giving them a try, just click here.
  • If you have cardiovascular or circulatory problems and are taking medication, always check with your doctor before adding any outdoor activity to your routine.

I leave you with two important tips:

  • Always call 911 in an emergency.
  • Listen to your body. It knows when something’s wrong.

Of course, I encourage everyone to enjoy plenty of outdoor fun this summer. Just remember to use a little extra care so you can stay safe while you move ahead with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Friday’s Food For Thought: The Liquid Edition

Welcome to June!

We’ve had some warm and sticky weather here in New York City since the Memorial Day weekend, so I thought it was the perfect time to remind everyone about the importance of staying hydrated.

I often talk about the fact that the human body is an amazing machine, but it’s important to remember that machine is made up of two-thirds water. Like anything else, if you want the body to keep running properly, you need to give it what it needs.

Here are some of the benefits of staying hydrated:

  • Regulation of body temperature
  • Alleviating fluid retention
  • Distribution of nutrients and oxygen to cells and organs
  • Improvement of metabolic function
  • Decreasing appetite

I’m still waiting to feel the effects of that last bullet point. I do my best to drink the recommended 5-7 glasses of water each day, but I don’t know how much effect it’s had on my overall appetite. (I love to eat!) However, I admit if I’m hungry and nowhere near a healthy snack, drinking a glass of water can stave off my hunger just long enough to avoid eating something I’ll regret later. (Chewing gum works in a pinch, too.)

Now let’s look at some of the physiologic effects of what happens when you don’t consume enough water and become dehydrated:

  • Decreased blood volume
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased core temperature
  • Sodium retention
  • Decreased sweat rate

Think of it this way: the body can go for a long period of time without food, but can only survive for a few days without water.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers the following guidelines for drinking water when exercising:

  • Drink 16 oz of water two hours before exercise. In warmer weather, you can add an additional 8 – 16 oz.
  • During exercise, drink 20 to 40 oz for every hour of exercise.
  • If you exercise for more than 60 minutes, you can re-hydrate with a sports drink containing up to 8% carbohydrate to replace both fluid and dwindling muscle glycogen stores.
  • When exercising for 60 minutes or less, water is best. (My personal choice).

Here’s how I rationalize that last point: If I’m pressed for time and can only squeeze in a 30-minute elliptical session, I’ll burn up to 340 calories. During that time, if I guzzle a sports drink like Gatorade or Vitamin Water, I’ll consume 125 calories.  So I walk away from a shorter than normal workout, and I’ve only burned 215 calories. That is not the post-cardio high I was looking for!

I realize some people simply can’t stand the blandness of water and need a little flavor. Luckily, there are lots of  zero-calorie flavored water options available. Remember, having a flavored drink with zero calories (or 5 calories if you add one of those flavor-crystal packets to your water bottle) is better than NOT drinking anything at all.

In the end, raising a water bottle to your health is an easy way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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