By Scott Prater
The dog days of summer have arrived at Schriever along with advisements for people to avoid prolonged exposure to sun and heat.
When the mercury rises above 90, risks for heat-related illnesses rise accordingly.
By following a few simple guidelines, Airmen can still get training in without risking possible heat related illnesses.
“People need to understand they can die from heat stroke,” said Staff Sgt. William Yarlett, 21st Medical Squadron public health technician. “Colorado presents runners with a combination of potentially dangerous factors, dry air and altitude. Sweating acts as a cooling mechanism, but in this dry climate, sweat tends to disappear quickly. That’s why it’s even more important to stay adequately hydrated in this environment.”
Hydration and paying attention to warning signals are keys to avoiding heat exhaustion, which is a precursor to heat stroke, an acute illness that can be fatal.
“There are a lot of online calculators out there that help people determine the amount of water they should consume each day,” Yarlett said. “I’m at 160 pounds, so I need to drink two liters of water each day. That may seem like a lot, but when people add up all of the coffee, soda or other drinks they consume in any given day, it usually adds up to more than two liters.”
Good hydration doesn’t mean downing a bunch of water on the morning of a big training run or PT test. Yarlett recommends starting a hydration plan one to two days before an event.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion are hard to miss. Nausea usually hits first, followed by muscle cramping and headaches. If anyone notices these symptoms, especially if they occur together or consecutively, they should stop immediately and get out of the sun.
“These symptoms get worse pretty quickly and Airmen should pay careful attention to themselves and others who display them,” Yarlett said. “If you notice a friend or training companion with these symptoms and they don’t recover once inside a cooler area, you should seek medical attention.”
That said, Seth Cannello, Schriever sports and fitness manager, says he actually advises people to conduct some portion of their training during the heat of the day.
“It’s probably not a good idea to exercise for more than an hour in extreme heat,” Cannello said. “Moderation is important. People should start slow and work their way up to longer distances, but it is a good idea to mimic test conditions a close as possible. I ran a half Ironman triathlon in Austin, Texas a couple of years ago and did all of my training before and after work. Only training in cooler conditions ended up hurting my performance on race day because a good portion of the race occurred when it was hot.”
This concept transfers well to Air Force fitness tests.
“Airmen are running 1.5 miles for their tests, so training for that shouldn’t take more than 90 minutes,” Cannello said. “If people are only training during cooler times, but testing in the early afternoon, the heat is going to affect their performance. This is especially relevant for folks who are on the border line between passing and failing.”
Rob Ladewig, a veteran of more than 20 Ironman triathlons says summertime heat also provides motivation for runners to mix up their training.
“Swimming provides a heavy cardiovascular workout and keeps you cool at the same time,” he said. “Biking, likewise provides cardio exercise, adds some variety to your training regimen and keeps you cooler as well.”
Nutrition is also important for training and testing or event days. Cannello has seen many Airmen go in for their morning workout or fitness test without eating anything prior.
“We’ll see folks get dehydrated and crash,” Cannello said. “Many times it’s after their fitness test. They look terrible, they’ll get nauseous and pale. It happens a lot. But there is an easy fix. People need to have a nutrition plan. They need to eat something for breakfast, or drink a water or Gatorade on their way in to work, something with carbohydrates in it.”
For more information, tips and advice on running and training during the summer months, contact the Schriever Fitness Center at 567-6628.