- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2001

Any committed athlete, amateur or professional, is determined and goal-oriented, or he or she probably wouldn't do that last bench press with shaking, tingly arms or run that 10th mile
with heavy, aching legs.
Most would agree such persistence is needed for physical self-improvement, like any betterment, but there is one time when doctors, coaches and trainers caution against pushing too hard: in the summer heat.
"You have to start off easy and make sure you hydrate before you go out," says Dr. Phillip Omohundro, an orthopedic surgeon with a specialty in sports medicine, "or you can quickly get overheated and dehydrated."
Dr. Omohundro has offices in Silver Spring and in Northeast. He also is a team doctor for local schools, including 22 sports teams at Catholic University.
Overheating and dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.
Among signs of a heat stroke are a high body temperature, 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; confusion; and red, hot and dry skin (no sweating).
Every summer, emergency rooms in the District see patients for heat-related conditions. Some of the patients are athletes who didn't quit when they should have.
To avoid injury and heat-related illness, many local runners seek instruction from seasoned runners.
Marathoner Tom Martin, 59, who lives in Arlington Ridge, trains about 250 people for marathons through the Jeff Galloway marathon training program, which starts in May and ends in October, spanning the hottest months of the year.
One of the first things he tells his runners, who include both beginners and more accomplished runners, is to hydrate.
"We preach it every week — hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, not just the day of the run, but the whole week," Mr. Martin says.
The prospective marathoners meet once a week on Dangerfield Island, just south of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, to run part of the Mount Vernon trail.
Besides drinking a lot, it also helps to run during the cooler hours of the day — so, the hotter it gets, the earlier the runners meet.
Last Saturday they met at 7 a.m., an hour earlier than during May and the earlier part of June. Some of the slower runners, who might run a mile in 15 minutes, start at 6 a.m.
"Many times, it's harder for the slower runner, who might take five, six or seven hours to complete a marathon. They are out in the heat and sun much longer," Mr. Martin says. "Sometimes when they get around to the water stops, the water is murky."

Just like long-distance runners, mountain bikers and road cyclists can't escape the sun's pressing rays no matter how fast they go. The key to success for longer rides in heavy heat is preparation.
Brian Kemler, 32, who lives in Northwest and bicycles 14 miles to work in Rockville every day, goes on longer rides on the weekends.
"First of all, I am very cognizant of the heat. I drink constantly," Mr. Kemler says. He drinks mostly water but also has sports drinks or fruit juice to stock up and afterward replenish salt and minerals, which are lost when the body sweats.
"I probably drink 100 ounces a day," he says. "If I have to [urinate] once an hour, I think I'm hydrated enough."
He also eats up to 4,000 calories a day, about twice the amount recommended for someone of his height, 5 feet 11, and weight, 165 pounds.
On the actual rides, Mr. Kemler drinks from bottles of water or, if he's mountain biking in a remote area without access to water fountains, he wears his Camelbak, a type of backpack that has an insert that can be filled with water and has a tube from which the rider can drink while keeping his or her hands on the handlebars.
"They're very convenient, so people tend to drink more," says Phil Koopman, an avid cyclist and co-owner of City Bikes, a bicycle store in Adams Morgan that sells hundreds of packs every year.
The larger packs hold about 100 ounces of water, which lasts up to five hours.
"Generally, what's recommended is 5 [ounces] to 10 ounces for 15 minutes of running," Dr. Omohundro says. That's a fairly good guideline for bicycling, too.
He also recommends that athletes who want to make sure they have replenished enough fluids after exerting themselves should weigh themselves before and after an activity. The weight change represents the exact amount of fluids lost.
The water backpacks have room for a first-aid kit, tools for the bike, extra clothing, sunscreen and energy bars.
"As a mountain biker, you have to be ready whatever happens," Mr. Koopman says.
Some cyclists say their helmets make their heads too hot, and runners sometimes complain that hats prevent their heads from "breathing."
With new helmet designs, however, the head protection no longer works like a lid on a pressure cooker, and there is no good excuse not to wear a helmet, Mr. Koopman says.
"Most helmets now are designed to have air go through them," he says. "They also have visors on them to keep the sun off your face. … Some say that the aerodynamics of the helmet actually helps."
Though the best way to protect oneself against the sun's damaging rays is to wear clothes, an athlete tends to want to wear as little as possible when exercising.
Mr. Martin recommends light polyester jerseys and shorts for running.
"You absolutely don't want to wear anything made of cotton," Mr. Martin says. "When a cotton T-shirt gets soaked, it gets heavy and clammy, and you don't want to run in that."
Cotton socks also get uncomfortable when they get sweaty.
"You easily get blisters with cotton socks," Mr. Martin says.
Cyclists also wear synthetic jerseys in the summer, but the recommended clothes are short-sleeved and short-legged and do not shield sufficiently against the sun. To protect exposed areas, doctors recommend using sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or more.
Even when exercisers do everything right, however, the body sometimes goes on strike against the mind's wishes and willpower.
One of the milder forms of heat-related problems is heat cramps. They usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body's salt and moisture, and the low salt levels in the muscles cause painful cramps, which usually appear in the abdomen, arms or legs.
Doctors recommend that anyone with heat cramps stop all activity and sit down in a quiet, cool place, and drink clear juice or a sports beverage. If the cramps don't disappear in about an hour, the exerciser should seek medical care.
Knowing there are plenty of risks in exercising outside, it seems logical that athletes would stay inside on stationary bikes or treadmills during the summer.
Wrong.
Even when doctors recommend that athletes train indoors, runners and cyclists often do not agree.
"I rarely run on a treadmill," Mr. Martin says. "I think it changes your body mechanics."
Plus, if you are going to compete outside in the hot weather, you need to get used to it, Mr. Martin says.
Many sports spectators marvel at tennis player Andre Agassi's ability to play five-setters for three or four hours in boiling heat and at cyclist Lance Armstrong's capacity to pedal about 2,300 miles in 20 stages during Tour de France in the middle of summer.
The reason these athletes can perform at the height of their ability in extreme circumstances is that they know their bodies well and train in the same conditions in which they compete, Dr. Omohundro says.
"You actually condition your body to take the heat," Dr. Omohundro says. "The body can reset its thermostat … but you have to give it time."
Overall, his advice for outdoor activities is simple:
"Common sense carries a long way," he says.

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