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The Race Against Dehydration and Heat Stroke

On your mark, get set, and go! Welcome to race season in New England. This year marks the 43rd annual New Balance Falmouth Road Race – a traditional and iconic course steeped in Cape Cod’s history. More than 12,000 runners will start in Woods Hole and continue seven miles to finish at Falmouth Heights Beach, winding along the coast of Falmouth and Martha’s Vineyard Sound. The picturesque course features narrow hilly roads, stunning ocean views, and of course, the scorching heat of August.

Heat stroke is one of the three leading causes of death in athletes, especially in the summer months of July and August. With proper race training and careful attention to hydration, South County Physical Therapy, Inc. (SCPT) helps runners protect themselves from falling victim to this potentially dangerous condition.

Exercise dehydration is a major factor that contributes to heat stroke with your body constantly trying to regulate itself during a workout. When your temperature spikes, sweat is produced as your body works to cool itself down. However, when you sweat, your body also rids itself of essential fluids and electrolytes. A simple solution to replenish these fluids and electrolytes is to stay hydrated before, during, and after a workout.

An athlete, whether amateur or professional, should always begin hydrating one hour before any intended exercise with 16 ounces of water or sports drink. It is recommended that you continually drink 4-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes throughout the duration of activity.

If your intended activity will last more than one hour, or involves high intensity interval training, consider a sports drink with the following ingredients: carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium.

Proper water intake will keep you sufficiently hydrated, but if you’re interested in switching it up with a sports drink, click here for more information on pre-, during, and post-workout replacement fluids.

Other common signs of dehydration can include dizziness, chills, headaches, dark-colored urine, and thirst. It is important to note that when heat stroke develops, symptoms such as muscle cramps, nausea, tingling of the limbs, difficulty breathing, and body temperature elevation to dangerous levels may occur. If heat stroke progresses over a long period of time, rapidly, and with ignored symptoms, the results can be fatal.

So how do you know how much is enough to keep you hydrated and healthy?

As your mother always said, “you are one of a kind!” Well, she was right because your body has its own “one of a kind” way of reacting to hydration levels during a workout. A proactive approach to prevention is to test your body’s level of hydration by weighing yourself before, during, and after exercise. If you are lighter after a workout, it is likely that a fluid deficit occurred meaning you should increase your “during-workout” fluid intake, and vice-versa if you are heavier post-workout.

For more information and tips, SCPT suggests a visit to the STOP Sports Injuries website (click here for a shortcut) to learn more about heat-related illness prevention.

Whether you’re lacing up for Falmouth on August 16th or training for your favorite Fall road race, remember to always re-fuel, replenish, and recover your body for better health and better results.

If you’re interested in receiving help with training or your post-race recovery, SCPT is only a phone call away! Call us at 508-832-2628 for more information.