The dog days of summer are upon us!
Regardless of how well adjusted you are to the heat Phoenix is practically on the face of the sun for the summer months and we get scorched. I personally will try just about anything to remain outdoors for the majority of my training. I don’t mind going to the gym for weight training. Alternatively I can do a 6 hour hike and be sad when it’s over but put me on a stair machine in the gym for 30 minutes and it feels like an ETERNITY!!
This is why I choose to still find a way to get most of my training done outdoors even in our sweltering heat. Over the years I have found a few tricks that seem to really help me keep my cool. I will share my top 5 ways to stay cool.
HYDRATION!!! This is probably the most important part of keeping your cool. It is truly a science. I feel like I can’t get enough in my system not only in the winter but especially in the summer. I also want to be sure I am putting lost electrolytes back in my system. I posted an article recently on my FB page from Chris Kresser titled “Hydration 101: How Much Water Do We Really Need”. It is a good read and you can view it by clicking here.
When I posted it one of my FB network members who is a total and complete EXPERT in this arena reached out to me with some additional information that was really fascinating. A little introduction to Dr. Marcus:
Dr. Franklin Marcus was the Medical Director of Ironman Hawaii (World Championship) for two years and a coordinator/charge doctor for 12 years. He was medical director of Ironman Hawaii 70.3 for 7 years. He trained at University of Michigan as a cardiac anesthesiologist and is board certified. He dealt with EIH continuously and also has been involved in a sweat analysis clinic for several years. Here is Dr. Marcus’ input regarding proper hydration and electrolyte replacement using sweat analysis:
“Lets use terms electrolytes and salt interchangeably (which is not really accurate–but for this conversations–its ok and simpler). 95% of the body salt is intracellular and %5 is in the blood. The function of salts are to allow/assist cause muscle contraction, nerve conduction, and allow molecule transit across membranes. The salts in the blood does nothing, the functional salts are in the cells. But their is an equilibrium between blood and tissue salt so we use blood salt to approximate tissue and in turn total body salt.
As one sweats, the composition of sweat approximates blood plasma, so ones sweat has the same amount/ratio of salts glucose, free vitamins etc. that exist in one’s blood. When one sweats, the tissues recognize a disequilibrium in the blood tissue salt ration and begin to transport salts from the tissues in the blood to maintain the equilibrium. After a period of time (and it varies from person to person) the rapid flux of salt from the tissue to the blood creates muscle fatigue, cramps and soreness.
As a general rule of thumb..most people sweat approx 1gram of salt per hour at high exertion, elevation, heat climate, high humidity climates. I have been involved in sweat analysis clinic for several years and have seen a range from 400 my to 3.5grams an hour which probably explains why some folks need salt supplements and others don’t.
As a general rule, after 4 hours of continuous exertion, if you look at your clothes (arm pits/crotch) and see white salt deposits, you are a heavy salt sweater (which is different than heavy sweater) and are probably loosing in excess of 1.5 grams an hour.
Salt loading (i.e. taking in salts prior to exercise, i.e. salt brine in the morning) probably offers minimal assistance to the body as most healthy folks are already in perfect salt balance. Thank you kidneys….BUT!!
It is worthwhile to ingest salt/electrolytes while exercising as well as ample water to minimize tissue loss of salts. Most folks can easily ingest 400-600mg of salt an hour with water, which is usually enough to avoid problems during prolonged exertion for anybody other than 3+gram per hour sweaters.
You can train yourself to take in more salt an hour, say 1.2-2 grams an hour but it takes time and usually bothers peoples stomach.
Lastly, hyponatremia can also be dilutional and be caused by drinking to much water, above and beyond perspiration rate.”
Personally, I know I am a heavy sweater AND a heavy salt sweater. When I mentioned this to Dr. Marcus he responded with the following:
“Ideally you should be taking in about 500mg sodium per hour during medium intensity exercise, which is the amount of salt in two bottles of Gatorade. As an example, for high intensity exertion I would suggest 750mg -1gram an hour. This is in addition to fluids!
One caveat I would add is to use one’s weight. Weigh yourself prior to exertion (preferably no clothes, or at least dry clothes) and at the end of exertion reweigh yourself. Your weight should be within 2lbs of your starting weight. If its over–not good, as one has overhydrated which has its own set of dangers/issues.
If its under..also not good, as one has underhydrated with a different set of issues. The problem comes when one is spot on in terms of weight after exercise, yet they fell disoriented..numb, tingling or have some swelling, in feet or hands. They have “most likely” been drinking to much free water even though they have had the appropriate amount of fluids, they have not had enough salt.
I would urge folks starting on the journey of understanding their own body’s sweating needs, to carry a scale in their car and weigh before and after exercise (again dry clothes!) to get a handle on fluid needs and intake.
Lastly, I would urge caution on using ones urine color as a definitive state of hydration. It has been shown in multiple arenas/studies that color is a poor reflector of hydration. It is an addition tool, but color is impacted by many factors i.e. vitamins (B series); foods, mineral intake, and most important overall kidney health, yet many people still use color as an indicator. I would be more inclined to use frequency and volume of urination rather color.”
This is some million dollar information right here. You can take as much or as little of this as you need. Some of you are weekend warriors, some high end athletes who are thinking about how to carry along a scale in your car! Either way this is some really good stuff that Dr. Marcus provided.
A BIG thanks to Dr. Marcus for his input. He is a bonafide expert on hydration and sweat analysis and I hope to get more out of him in the future. I am very thankful for my network and all the incredible information they offer up. BRAVO!!!!
Proper attire. This is definitely key. For short hikes I generally wear just a sports bra, hat and lightweight shorts to get a little sun- this is for hikes under 4 miles or an hours time. If I am doing anything longer than that I wear long sleeves, a larger brimmed hat and try to cover up my skin as much as possible.
I prefer Merino wool for the material. I love Merino wool and have expressed this many times in my posts. I had not fully tested a 17.5 micron material until recently. Merino wool is particularly great because it is antimicrobial (no odors or bacteria!), moisture wicking (mother nature knows how to keep these sheep cool- it just so happens to work for us too).
Of all fibres, merino wool fibres are the most water resistant. The fibre can absorb and release 10 times more moisture than synthetic fibre. One fibre can absorb up to one third of its own weight in moisture without being felt as clammy or wet to the hand feel or touch.
Ibex Outdoor Clothing recently sent me the shirt in the photo above to test out this 17.5 micron base layer. This was a short sleeve shirt and it performed extremely well during a very hot hike in Prescott Arizona. It was so hot in fact I had to put my pooch in my pack and carry him! Outside of some funky tan lines it was fantastic. This link provides a great guide from Ibex on the basics of Merino wool. They are a really cool company- focusing on sustainability and they love dogs!
For a longer hike I would suggest a long sleeve wool shirt. It seems counterintuitive but it really makes a huge difference not having the sun on your skin. Wool does a great job here because you still get the breathability with the sun protection.
Kool Ties… a little geeky? Maybe.. hence my playful photo BUT… KOOL at the same time. I stumbled upon these when I took a survey on my FB page asking what people thought were the best ways to cool yourself while outdoors in the heat.
I had 2 soldiers recommend them who had served in Desert Storm. Not only did I have these great testimonials from people I personally knew but found out they were discovered by a couple that lives locally in Cave Creek where I also live! For only $11 a tie I couldn’t pass them up. They are fantastic.
According to their website:
“Kool Tie will provide a personal evaporative cooling system for the major vascular network including the carotid arteries in the neck, lowering the heart rate. Athletes achieve higher levels of performance with less exertion while wearing Kool Tie. Submerge Kool Tie in clean water (soft water when available) for 30-45 minutes. During hydration make sure crystals are evenly distributed. Do not leave tie in water for long periods of time as excessive hydration puts strain on the seams. Check for color fastness. Crystals will re-hydrate for years.”
You can get them on Amazon or at REI.
ICE CUBES! K.I.S.S. It’s a simple and very inexpensive way to stay cool. I wear shorts that have plenty of pockets in them then put ice cubes in every pocket. They melt as you hike and keep your lower body cool. Eventually of course they completely melt and your shorts are soaked but in this desert heat they will dry quickly.
This isn’t anything I found online or heard from anyone else. Just another day of me not wanting to do my climbing on a stair machine at the gym. I figured it was worth a shot- it worked really well!
Switch it up!
I remember back in my college/bartending days when I was training for inline skating (yup I used to competitively inline skate… nerd!!!) and the only time I could train was 12pm-2pm. I would drench myself in drinking fountains and run through sprinklers. It was TORTURE but I made it work. If I do have to hike at the hottest part of the day many of the things I have mentioned really help.
When I can getting up EARLY with my headlamp and starting before the sunrise or after the sunset is a great way to keep up with your training. Night hikes are really fun and several of the parks locally allow them. You of course need to keep an eye out for critters!!!
Traveling to a cooler part of the state and doing hikes that go along streams and water is also another great option- and you get your fix of adventure! I have done many great trails in Sedona, Flagstaff, Prescott and along the Mogollon Rim that are drop dead gorgeous and have streams or rivers close by almost the whole hike. The above photo is Fossil Springs located in Strawberry Arizona. It is a great excuse to get out of town and try some new trails.
Swimming is a great, low impact, crosstraining activity and it gives my joints a needed break. We don’t have a lap pool so I picked up these items at a Leslie’s pool supply store. They add resistance and you can do several routines with them. It doesn’t get much cooler than this!
Don’t overexert yourself, slow your roll, be smart, stay hydrated, and stay cool
A salty, sweaty girl from Phoenix with a very dry sense of humor.
I am not a dietitian, nutritionist, or certified trainer. I am a normal, smart, professional Woman who is also an athlete. I was diagnosed with a very serious case of diverticulitis and within moments almost lost 60% of my G.I. tract due to it. Once in recovery to avoid surgery going forward I did a tremendous amount of research and adopted a Paleo lifestyle. The results I have personally seen and felt are worth sharing.
I am fortunate to have a network of professional athletes from many walks of life, nutritionists, trainers and other medical professionals to learn from. I am sharing my personal journey for those of you who experience similar types of health issues or are simply interested in the information I gather. I hope it encourages you and points you in the right direction to research further for your own personal well being.
For those of you who are looking to share in my relentless hiking passion, or those who simply enjoy learning about the things I come across I am happy to have you all along on this incredible ride!
The information contained on this web site is not to be considered a guide, instead it is my report of the trails I have done so that you may have a general idea of what to expect on the hikes. I take no responsibility nor assume liability for inaccuracies, errors, omission, or incompleteness of any information.
You are responsible for using your judgment in interpreting and using this information to safely enjoy your own outdoor pursuits. Each trail has its own potential hazards, each needs to be evaluated for each person based on that person’s personal fitness level and other considerations.
Boy Scouts motto: Be Prepared!!