With the heat index recently topping out at 106, it can be tough for anyone engaging in outdoor activity. Exercising in the early morning is one way to beat the heat, which is why I tell my clients this: tomorrow starts today.
What does that mean? It means that if they plan to exercise before sunrise they need to start their preparation the prior day. That’s especially true of my marathon walkers and runners, or anyone else engaging in endurance events, since the amount of time they spend exposed to the elements is greater than most.
Tomorrow starts today means working backwards, and often using your sleeping and waking patterns as a reference point for the rest of the day. It means anything and everything you need for the following day has been done the day before – getting your gear ready for your ride or run, having all your meals and snacks prepared and packaged, and tying up any loose ends before you turn in for the night.
That extra effort, with special attention paid to time management, can mean the difference between having an exhilarating morning workout, or an insufferably hot one in the middle of the afternoon. And the more fun and less misery you have during your sessions, the more likely you are to repeat those healthy behaviors.
“In San Antonio, the heat is something you definitely need to be aware of, so I tell new runners to run early, or run inside,” said Athena Farias, who leads Get Fit SATX, a wellness-based organization that helps folks prepare for everything from 5Ks and marathons to adventure races.
“I tell my people to be tuned in and to listen to their body for cues, and when it’s especially hot they really need to focus on perceived exertion,” she said. “I also want them to be aware of all the signs and symptoms of heat stress, like an elevated heart rate, lack of sweat, dizziness, being light-headed, and shortness of breath.”
To keep those issues at bay, she encourages her folks to stay hydrated throughout the day and prior to going out to run.
“Don’t just wait for signs of thirst to drink,” she said.
For Farias, a veteran of 11 marathons who holds a master’s degree and numerous personal training certifications, the extreme heat we’ve had lately has resulted in a few adjustments for her training groups.
“We made some changes to the workouts and focus more on how the runners and walkers are feeling as opposed to pace – we’re not so worried about the time,” she said. “We take more time for breaks, have more cold water on hand, make sure the rest intervals are appropriate, and try to keep the course as shady as possible, all in order to keep our people safe and cool.”
Keeping his team safe and cool is also a priority for Julio Reyes, a cross-country coach at Incarnate Word High School whose workouts often begin before sunrise.
“Our team workouts start at 5:45 in the morning,” said Reyes. “And most of the time we’re on the track, in a controlled environment, where we can take breaks whenever we need, and with water readily available … And since I value quality over quantity, we’re never out there too long, so our hard workouts are done in about 40 minutes.”
For Reyes, a running and conditioning coach who also trains clients privately through Stallion Running SA, there’s also a premium on doing what’s right for the individual during the dog days of summer.
“There’s a big difference between a beginner versus someone who’s been running for a while and who has had time to acclimate to the heat,’” he said.
“As an experienced runner and former boxer, I know I have the physical ability and mental toughness to run at 3 in the afternoon if I need to.” said Reyes, who has competed in the Masters World Championships no less than five times.
“But it’s very different for my clients, and when we work together it’s all about them, not me. So, I’m especially careful and tuned in when I’m working with other people.”
His advice for beginners who have to train in the heat is to be extra cautious, keep your exposure to the extremes at a minimum, and be prepared to make adjustments. “Even more advanced, experienced racers will have to adjust their pace in the heat,” said Reyes. “A solid seven-minute miler may be have to drop to an eight-minute pace as a means of accommodation. Everyone has to modify things a bit when it’s hot, and that may mean shortening your workout time, running flats instead of hills, or changing up your pace.”
He also stresses the importance of hydration before and after a run, and recommends a combination of water and sports drinks during sultry, sweaty outdoor sessions.
“In the end, when it’s excessively hot outside, you have to take a step back and weigh the benefits of the activity,” said Farias. “And if you do end up taking on an outdoor workout, water is great, but don’t forget about getting in some electrolytes too.”
In other news…
No only do you need to stay hydrated this summer, but so does Fido. And that just got a little easier thanks to a re-purposed fire hydrant turned public dog fountain opening up at The Luxury. To mark the event, the folks at Soler’s Sports are getting together with some of their friends and having a little party. Join them at the Luxury at 7 p.m. on Friday Aug. 23 for the official dedication, a Q&A with a local vet, a run/walk with or without your pooch, and a late night yoga class.
Tom Trevino is a writer and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. His column, “The Feed,” covers anything and everything related to health and wellness. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas at San Antonio, with certification and training from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, NPR, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.