Before You Walk in Hot Weather
When the heat is on, you need to prepare yourself properly for walking. Arm yourself with the right clothing, gear, fluids and knowledge of heat sickness symptoms.
Breathable and Sweat Wicking Tops
A few years ago, cotton was the miracle cloth that breathed. Today, modern microfibers such as Cool-Max not only breathe but also wick sweat away from the skin and allow it to evaporate rapidly, providing even more cooling. Your shirts and sports bras should be made of these modern wicking fabrics for maximum coolness.
If your thighs are prone to chafing, choose the bike-style shorts. You may want to layer them under looser shorts. Shorts should also be made of wicking, breathable fabrics. If you use lots of arm motion, avoid shorts with side pockets on which you may jam your thumbs. Running shorts often have a built-in panty so you don't need additional underwear.
Hats and Neck Coolers
Never go out into the sun without a hat. Look for hats made of Cool-Max and with vents or mesh to allow your head to breathe. For long walks, consider a hat with a neck drape to keep your neck from burning. Also look for neck coolers such as the Cobber or Cool Ties. You soak them in cold water, put them around your neck and they cool for hours.
Hot Weather Walking
Chafing and Blisters and Sunscreen
Heat plus sweat equals chafed skin at your underarms, chest, crotch and thighs. This can be prevented by using an anti-chafing product before you walk. Blisters are easier to get when it is hot. Prepare your feet before you walk. And, of course - always wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater.
Water AND Sports Drink An hour before your walk, drink a large glass of water. While walking drink a cup of water every mile. On long walks, after an hour switch to a sports drink that contains salts (electrolytes) to maintain your salt balance. If you drink only water while exercising and sweating you may end up in the hospital from depleting your body salt.
Know the Signs of Heat Illness
Your walk is not worth an ambulance ride to the hospital. Heat stroke is a true medical emergency - when your temperature and salt balance is off, it destroys your kidneys and other internal organs rapidly. Stop and cool down at the first signs of heat sickness.
• Top Signs of Heat Sickness and Hyponatremia
Drink or Else!
Dangers for Distance Walkers
Keeping enough fluids and salts in your body during a long distance event such as a marathon, a 20-miler, or a half-marathon is crucial to finishing feeling good, as well as avoiding an IV and a trip to the emergency room.
The basic rule of thumb is to start a walk having had 16 oz. of water, then replenishing with a cup of water every 15-20 minutes. End your walk with a big glass of water. That will prevent dehydration - losing too much fluid from your body. Symptoms such as feeling thirsty happen only after you have lost too much water already. Don't wait until you feel thirsty - keep drinking. Signs of dehydration: Dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, stomach ache, back pain, headache, irritability, decreased urination.
Hyponatremia (loss of sodium)
Sweating removes both water and salts - electrolytes - from your body as you walk. Depending on the humidity, you may not notice how much you are sweating. For walks of over an hour, replenishing your electrolytes with sports drink is also important to prevent hyponatremia. It is recommended to drink 1 bottle of sports drink for every 2 bottles of water. Or drink a mixture throughout your walk. Signs of hyponatremia: nausea, headache, cramps, confusion, slurred speech, bloating and swollen hands.
How do you carry along sports drink on a long training walk where you won't have any support? Assuming you have a source of water, buy the powdered sports drink mix and mix it with your water. It adds little weight and could keep you out of the emergency room.
Anne Thimm heard plenty of excuses for not drinking enough water and sports drink at the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk last year. At 20 miles a day for three days in hot weather, those excuses could put you in the hospital. Read these deadly quotes:
Drink or Else!
Quotes that Could Put You in the Hospital
by Anne Thimm
Hyponatremia, loss of sodium through sweating or from over-hydrating, was a huge problem on last year's DC Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk. The following are some scary quotes that I have heard/read from people. These are mindsets that you should avoid on any long walk - marathon, half marathon, or 20-miler such as at the Avon Walk.
1. "I hate sports drinks! I won't drink them." If you don't drink them, you could easily become a victim of hyponatremia. While salty snacks are good, they are not a total substitute for the electrolytes in sports drinks. Mix sports drinks with water to whatever concentration you desire (most can tolerate half and half).
2. "I walked the entire event last year and didn't drink any sports drinks." You were lucky, very lucky. This year, you might not be so lucky. More importantly, the person you are telling this to may think that they can also make it without sport drinks. Their metabolism is different from yours. They might not make it because you gave them this bad advice. This is not the type of testimonial that distance walkers should be giving out.
3. "I need to drink something, but I only like purple (or orange, or green) sports drinks. This stop doesn't have my flavor. I'll wait for the next stop." Trust me, chances are that if you will only drink a certain flavor of sports drink, you won't find it anywhere on the walk. Don't plan on an assortment of every flavor of drink at every stop. Drink whatever is available.
4. "There are no cold drinks at this stop. I'll wait until the next one." Don't wait, drink it even if it is warm. Pretend that you are in Paris and drinking warm drinks the European way - ooo-la-la!!!! Even if the bottles are warm, fill your personal water bottle with ice, water, and sports drink - yum! Odds are, if one stop is out of ice cold drinks, the next place might not have them either.
5. "Sports drinks make me gag." Lack of sport drinks can may you go into seizures. Bring some powdered Kool-aid/Crystal Light to help cover the sports drink taste.
6. "I'm on a diet, and I don't want the calories." You are on an intense endurance event, and you NEED the calories! THERE ARE NO DIETS ON THE WALK (exemption - diabetics, special medical cases, of course - but for the vast majority of us - NO DIETS. NO GUILT - OKAY!)