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How to Keep Cool, Stay Fit As Temperatures Soar

June 16, 2008

By Leslie Garcia, The Dallas Morning News

Jun. 16–How we love summer. Too hot to do much else besides freeze some Snickers bars, sneak them into the cool movie theater and while away the hours munching.

Yeah, right, honey. Like we in Healthy Living are going to let you get away with such nonsense.

That said, we have our own goal: to get you (yes, you) through the summer, not only relatively unscathed, but healthier. Or at least as healthy as when you started.

So take your name off that potato salad-eating contest and listen to our coaches: Phil Tyne, managing director for Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center; Jennifer Kemble, running coach at Run-On Texas; Melinda Safir, registered dietitian at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas; Kirk Burgess, senior physical director of the Town North Branch of the YMCA; and the National Athletic Trainers Association.

1) Eat watermelon. See how easy this is? Ms. Safir recommends this juicy summer treat, as well as other water-rich foods such as cucumbers, cantaloupe, grapes and tomatoes (make sure they are the ones cleared as safe to eat, and wash them well).

They’ll help fill you up, keep you hydrated, satisfy your sweet tooth and boost post-exercise energy. What more could you ask?

2) Allow yourself to acclimate to the heat. Ms. Kemble of Run-On says it takes our bodies 10 to 14 days to adjust. Realize that, and don’t push it. “Slow down your pace,” she says. “Let your body tell you what your pace should be, not your watch.

3) “Every little bit helps. Research shows that three 10-minute bouts of exercise are almost as good as one 30-minute stretch, Mr. Tyne says. “When people do 10, they actually walk faster and go a little longer. In research, the groups that did three 10-minute bouts throughout the day got better results than those who tried to schedule one 30-minute workout.”

Take a brisk walk early in the day, another when the sun sets. For the last 10? Jump rope indoors, or run in place.

4) “Too tired” to exercise? “Too hot” he can understand. But “too tired” won’t cut it with Mr. Tyne.

“Physiologically, that doesn’t make sense,” he says. “You’re just not getting enough oxygen to your brain. Get up and move, and within the first three to five minutes, you’ll have more energy. You’re getting oxygen and stimulating the cells in your brain. I tell people to walk 10 minutes; they end up walking 15 because they feel better.”

5) Eat light the night before a big workout. “That way, your body does not have to work hard to digest the food and cool you off,” Ms. Kemble says. “Stay away from adult beverages, which can be dehydrating.”

6) Get out of your rut. Mr. Burgess suggests getting revived by trying something new: A water aerobics class instead of swimming laps, a group if you’re used to running alone.

7) Know a little about sweat. Ms. Kemble tells her runners to be especially careful on humid days, because sweat doesn’t evaporate as well. “It’s the evaporation that cools you down, not the sweat itself,” she says.

Also, if you’re not sweating, seek medical attention. You could have heatstroke.

8) Hydrate. Drink plenty of fluids before going outside to exercise. How to tell if you’re drinking enough? Your urine should be light-colored — like lemonade instead of apple juice, as the trainers’ association so descriptively puts it.

9) Feeling puny? Stay inside. Such symptoms as fever, diarrhea and fatigue can decrease your body’s ability to tolerate heat and put you at greater risk for such heat-related illnesses as heatstroke.

10) Think protein. Sure, a nice salad of lettuce, tomatoes and water-dense cucumbers is delish. But you’ll be hungry pretty soon if you don’t include tuna, grilled chicken or some other form of protein.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Dallas Morning News

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