Fitness First: A Toast to Safe Summer Exercise

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell June 15, 2016 19:52

The heat is on here in the Mother Lode, so let’s toast to a summer of good exercise with a long, cold drink of water.

Between May and July, average high temperatures in Sonora, Angels Camp and Jackson typically soar from the mid-70s into the 90s. And a few times each summer the foothill mercury tops the century mark (the record for all three cities is 113).

All of which might tempt some to abandon their exercise routines and retreat into air-conditioned indolence until fall.

Don’t do it. There are many ways to cope with the summer heat and make exercise enjoyable – the most important of which is to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.

But first, consider this: Things could be a lot worse than they are here in the Sierra foothills.

In Death Valley’s Badwater Basin, the average July high is 116, making Sonora’s 92-degree mark for the same month seem downright nippy. Then there’s humidity, which in the foothills hovers around a comfortable 15 percent during most summer afternoons. That’s a mere fraction of the 60-plus percent averages in climatic saunas like Atlanta and New Orleans.

Athletes persevere through even more miserable summers. In Death Valley, several dozen runners each July participate in the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile near-death experience whose route climbs 8,360 feet from the valley floor to the Mt. Whitney trailhead.

That makes a two-mile morning walk in the foothills sound pretty good.

Summer in the Mother Lode actually is a great time to stay fit and active: With melting snows and warming water, opportunities for hiking, kayaking and swimming are on the rise.

But heat can be dangerous, especially for those over 65 and for anyone with a heart condition or other medical problem. So if you’re just beginning an exercise program this summer, check first with your doctor.

The best advice for those of any age and fitness level, however, is to stay hydrated.

Become aware of your daily hydration. The average adult should consume at least 64 ounces (eight cups) of fluids per day. Keep drinking water even when you’re not thirsty. Buy a BPA-free water bottle, canteen or Camelbak-type hydration pack. Then drink before, during and after a workout.

If you plan on being out for an hour or longer, replacing electrolytes – sodium, potassium and other minerals – becomes important. Dozens of electrolyte-replacement products, including Gatorade and Powerade, are on the market. Using them with water can help retain fluids, but be wary of sports drinks with high sugar content, which can lead to stomach cramps.

Also, monitor yourself for signs of dehydration: Low blood pressure, dark urine and headaches are the first clues. If you then become lightheaded and your skin is cool and moist, you may have heat exhaustion. If your temperature reaches 104, your skin dries and your heart races, get off the road and into the emergency room. You may have heat stroke.

Taking these precautions can minimize your risk:

  • Avoid the hottest part of the day: Exercise before 9am or after 7pm.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothes that breathe well.
  • Use sunscreen and wear a hat.
  • Seek shady paths, trails or sidewalks, as temperatures feel about 15 degrees hotter in direct sun.
  • Try going up the hill. Drive to Arnold (4,000 feet) or Twain Harte (3,640), where temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler than those in Sonora and Angels Camp. In Pinecrest (5,679), which offers a scenic, four-mile hike around the lake, even the midafternoon mercury doesn’t climb much higher than 80.
  • Check air advisories, particularly if wildfires are burning in the area and especially if you have a chronic lung or heart condition. If the air is smoky, exercise inside.

Most importantly, be aware of how you feel. Don’t push it and don’t get discouraged. Slow, moderate exercise is better than none at all.

Sonora resident Krista Howell teaches senior fitness and works with cardiac rehab patients.

Copyright © 2016 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell June 15, 2016 19:52
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