Fitness tips to help runners, bikers beat the heat

Sarah-Grace Sweeney

Staying fit is one of the challenges students face upon entering college. Sometimes it is because of a busy schedule, other times because watching “Project Runway” just sounds like more fun than spending some quality time at Gregory Gym. Lately, however, the record-breaking temperatures may have something to do with the challenge. Since Austin temperatures have broken records this summer, running junkies or those who are looking to start a running or biking routine this year should keep a few tips in mind.

Austin does have some good, shaded parks for exercising. Human biology senior Nadia Khan, president of the Texas Running Club, recommends running in places such as Waller Creek, Town Lake or Shoal Creek. She also stresses the importance of the time of day to run. “The running club runs everyday at 7 p.m.,” Khan said. “Ideally you should run at about 7:30 p.m or 7 a.m.,” avoiding the merciless midday rays.

Staying hydrated is another key element of being safe while exercising outdoors.

“Drink fluids, even if you are not thirsty,” said Sherry Bell of University Health Services. “Especially if the humidity is high, because it is harder for sweat to evaporate and cool you off in humidity.”

Khan recommends drinking a lot of water before running, and recovering with a sports drink or, as a June study by UT’s College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education suggested, with a glass of chocolate milk. Both agree that drinking coffee or other diuretics should be avoided. “Some foods also have a lot of water, like strawberries, watermelon, and it takes your body longer to digest those, so water retention there is better,” Khan said. “Just keep in mind what you eat as well as drink.”

Paying attention to wardrobe isn’t a bad idea either. “Wear looser clothing that doesn’t cover all of your skin,” Bell said. “That will keep you cooler than any tight or layered clothing.” Khan also suggested wearing athletic clothing that keeps you dry as well as functional, rather than fashionable, sunglasses.

Know your limits if you choose to run in more extreme conditions. Khan says dizziness, black spots in your field of vision, goose bumps or cottonmouth are all signs to slow down and take it easy, because you may be suffering from heat exhaustion or dehydration. The University Health Services also offers a whole list of symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Being knowledgeable about those symptoms can help runners recognize their stopping point.

The goals of running should remain having fun and feeling good. Khan suggests running with friends, saying it can help keep you motivated and make time go by faster, especially in the 100-degree weather.

Printed on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 as: Runners, bikers can beat triple-digit temperatures.