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
- 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.
- 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.