Usually when someone asks if your body is summer ready, you think tight tummy and firm
tushy.  When I ask my clients the same question, I am looking for an answer that goes a lot deeper than their ever-darkening tan.  Actually, I am going to take the focus of this question all the way under the skin and ask if your inner body is ready for the rigors of the heat that we all know as Chicago summer.

First of all, let me explain what is going to happen and why, and then what to do about it in order to prepare and avoid the bad stuff that goes along with it.  The process of the body getting ready for the warming weather is called “heat acclimation”.  During this time,
the inner systems of the body are tightening themselves up to protect against activity in the heat.  The entire process takes about a month in the Chicago Area (less in places that stay warmer year round).  So, pretty much during the months of May and June, your body is going to be changing, and you are going to notice these changes while you are exercising.  The first thing that you are going to notice is that you are going to start sweating (for those of you who do) a lot sooner than normal because when your body heats up, it sweats in order to cool itself down.  It’s sort of like running through a cold sprinkler on a hot day.  The sweat (sprinkler) attaches moisture to the skin and when air hits the moisture, it provides a cooling effect.  You will also notice that your sweat is very salty and stings when it gets in your eyes.  This is because during the first part of the
acclamation process, your perspiration is very concentrated with nutrients called electrolytes.  Electrolytes are the conductors of your body.  They make sure that all the impulses sent out get to the proper place to make muscles and tissues function correctly.
If these are all lost during activity, then you can pretty much imagine the consequences.  The most common electrolyte lost in sweat is [NaCl], more commonly known as salt.  This is what causes the sting in your eyes when you perspire.  If you don’t believe
me, pour some table salt in your eye and see for yourself.  The problem is that if the salt and other minerals are not replaced in the body, then the first result is basic dehydration.  The first sign of dehydration is always, ironically enough, a lack of sweat.  If the body doesn’t have enough fluid to keep it’s main systems going, then it sure isn’t going to share with the cooling systems (not very nice, is it?).  As little as 1% dehydration can lead to a decrease in performance.  Without fluid in the body to cool itself off, the core temperature will begin to rise, and this is where the real problems begin.  If core temperature rises too high, then you may experience some more serious side effects, such as heat exhaustion and even more severely, heat stroke.

Now, what can we do to avoid all this ugliness?  It’s really very easy.  The main thing to do is to keep hydrated.  This is a broken record statementcoming from all of your trainers who tell you to drink water until you float away, but at this time of year, it is critical.
If you work at a desk, keep a cool squeeze bottle by your keyboard and take a swig every once-in-a-while.  Do NOT wait until you are actually thirsty to drink your fluids.  The “thirst-drive” is not an adequate indicator of how much water needs to be taken into the body.  Tests have shown that if that is the only indicator used, then you are only satisfying about 50% of the hydration levels required by your body.  Quite a far cry from 1%, isn’t it?  If you are active, the song remains similar, but simply adds an extra verse.  For those of you who are active, especially outside, you need to replace those electrolytes that are used a little bit more aggressively.  Water is a good start, but if you are looking for a more full replacement, a sports drink is just one step better, because they are stocked with the vitamins and minerals that you lose.  They are manufactured especially for athletes
and their needs.  If they are somewhat sweet for your tastes, simply water them down a little bit.  The other nutrients that are being replaced other than your Sodium are Potassium and Magnesium.  The best places to get these, you ask?  Eat a banana.  Keeping these two nutrients in your system not only keeps your fluid levels up, but also has the side bonus of deterring cramps related to fluid loss.

Now that you are fully armed with the knowledge and ability to keep your body happy and healthy through the warm summer months, you are ready to go out and beat the heat.  Get out.  Enjoy the scenery and the weather.  Heaven knows that in Chicago it may not last long.  Keep your fluids handy and have a full and fit summer.

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