Heat Exhaustion

After a day of hard climbing or recreating, the stoke remains, but the body is running on fumes.  Exercise related heat exhaustion can wreak havoc on our ability to make important decisions.  Not everyone is willing to admit that exhaustion is setting in and often times they will just try to work through it.1

Exercise related heat exhaustion occurs when our bodies get too hot during exercise-based activities.  Our bodies are regulated for peak performance at around 98.6 F/ 37 C.  When outdoor temps are hotter than that, our bodies react to try and maintain peak temps through various means of thermoregulation.  

The most prominent way in which our bodies react to heat is through sweating.  When sweat evaporates it can lower your body temperature.  Vasodilatation is another method by which the body will regulate high internal temperatures.  As blood vessels under our skin get wider there is an increase in blood flow to our skin where it is cooler, thus allowing our bodies to release heat through radiation.  This process especially occurs in our arms, legs, and head.

When our bodies are unable to dispose of the extra heat our body temperature can rise to unhealthy levels thus causing exhaustion.  During heat exhaustion your body temperature can rise to anywhere between 101 F/38.3 C and 104 F/40 C.  This increase can cause dizziness, poor blood flow, and weakness which could lead to collapse.

High humidity can accelerate heat exhaustion as it limits our ability to use sweat as a means by which we can cool our bodies.  Dehydration is a common factor in expediting heat exhaustion as well.  Limited water, along with high temps and high humidity call for extreme caution when exerting precious energy during outdoor activities like climbing, running, biking, hiking, and walking.

Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include but are not limited, to rapid heartbeat, increase in sweating, dizziness, vomiting, headaches, cramps, confusion, and limited mobility.

As stubborn as athletes can be, it is important to try and recognize when heat exhaustion is taking place.  At that point the best thing to do is to simply stop the activity.  Try and cool off by finding shade, removing heavy clothing, drinking water or sports drinks, and raising your legs above your head.

As always, it’s important to remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Try not to overexert yourself during peak heat and humidity.  Wear a hat, take lots of breaks, drink lots of water, wear light weight or moisture wicking clothes, and know when to stop.

Only climbing a few routes, or running a few km, or doing a couple sets can be really frustrating when you are with the crew or on a long road trip, but avoiding migraines, dehydration, fainting, or a trip to the hospital really is worth the extra caution.  When the stoke is high and the temps are high it can be a dangerous combination, but there can be balance if you take some time to listen to your body along the way.2


  1. Writing is weird.  I set out to write a piece highlighting cool independent restaurants while on climbing trips and road trips.  I was going to preface the piece with idea that sometimes after going hard all day, your brain doesn’t work and just wants someone to tell you where to go and what to eat.  The piece was going to be a guide for where to eat after the climb.  But I guess a post on heat exhaustion is cool too.  I left the original paragraph for you to see where my intent and the finished product diverged.  
  2. I have always been so bad at “listening”.  I have ended up on the ground or in the hospital on more than one occasion.  Hopefully this piece will push me to be more attentive.

37 Replies to “Heat Exhaustion”

  1. So do you need to bookmark this post and then have someone remind you to read it on the next hot day? They can remind you that it was written by someone close to you, for whom you have great respect.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Everyday is viciously 🥵 hot in South Florida even when the sun is away. Thanks for sharing this post! I will repost.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. There are times, when our subconscious knows what is more important to share at the moment. Currently there are so many areas suffering through the heat, that offering of advice is necessary.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great advice! And people need to realize that their dogs can get heat exhaustion also. I recently saw someone jogging mid day dragging their poor dog behind them. And yes, I did let them know it wasn’t a good thing to do.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. It’s actually a running joke around my house that “I’m going outside to overdue it” because that’s just how I roll. Fortunately I’ve never been to the point of passing out. I’m over 40yo and I’ll never learn, but on the bright side I’m not dead yet either. Ha,ha,ha.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Having suffered heat exhaustion many times as I’ve aged I recently invested in a hiking umbrella. I don’t care how dorky it looks . I was the envy of my last trip as I hiked unfazed by the sun. You can strap it onto your pack and hike hands free!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. There’s several on the market. They have this white reflective coating which reflects the sun. It is so so awesome!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Heat exhaustion is no joke! I’m glad you wrote on it. Some people are good at listening to the signs their bodies give, some are still learning, and others ignore them lol

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have been here and done this. Recently. For a person of my age, 49, the experience of having your heart rate slow as arteries contract to maintain blood pressure is nothing less than terrifying. Like you, I love to go out and abuse myself, but as turns out, I don’t actually wanna die. I don’t want you to either. Good post, and thanks for making me feel less alone.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Such a great question…

      When you’re sitting or standing, oxygen-depleted blood must work against gravity in order to return to your heart.

      Elevating your legs places them above your heart. Gravity will now work in your favor to help improve blood flow.

      Essentially laying down and propping up your legs reduces the work your heart is doing.

      I hope this helps! Thank you for asking!


      1. This helps a lot, especially as I have a heart murmur, so thanks very much!
        Also I totally relate to your footnote about the experience of writing and the directions it can take us in. That’s the magic of all artforms!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Funny about the completely different story taking over. Imagine if you had characters – the havoc they would wreak!
    Writing is indeed weird 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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