The Fit Life, LLC

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beat the Heat While Staying Fit

(This is a reprint of an article I wrote a few years ago. With temps reaching 100 around the U.S., it seemed appropriate).

You’ve been waiting all winter to get outside—enjoy the sun and warmth. And now…well…you’ve got it—plenty of heat! The mere thought of spending the day outside in the humidity exhausts you. The urge is to turn on the air conditioning, pick up the remote, a pint of ice cream, and relax.

Despite the urge to chill, there are ways to beat the heat and stay fit all summer long. The most obvious would be to get your cardio (biking, running, roller-blading, etc.) in during the morning or evening hours when heat is not at its peak. Save those prime hours for water sports. Swimming is a fantastic cardio-vascular workout! Just don’t forget your sunscreen. Other “cool” options are renting a kayak or canoe for a day. A hike in the woods will be cooler than a walk in town on the concrete (especially if there’s a nice stream to soak your feet in). And while biking can still be a chore on a hot day, you get a nice breeze!

To all the runners out there…if you’re anything like me, you’ve been waiting months to get off the treadmill and back outside. Now the heat is forcing you back to the machine. If you long for the outdoor run, your best bet, of course, is to run early in the morning or in the evening once the sun has gone down. However, if the only chance you have to catch a run is your lunch hour, you can acclimate yourself to the heat. I still don’t suggest heading out for a hardcore run in the heat of a code red ozone day. But by gradually building up resistance to the heat (and staying hydrated), your body can become somewhat acclimated.

Start out slow and short—ten minutes of running at a slower than normal pace. The next day add another five minutes. After eight or nine days your body should have adjusted enough to tolerate the heat at your normal pace.

No matter what the activity, hydration is key during these hot summer months—not just during activity, but also on a daily basis. And if you are outside building up a sweat, you will want a sports drink to replace all the electrolytes you’re losing.

Light clothing that wicks away moisture is another key to staying cool, along with keeping equipment to a minimum. If you have asthma, skip the runs on bad ozone days and retreat to the air conditioned gym. And always carry your inhaler during outdoor exercise.

When the heat really starts to get you down, just think back to cold, dreary February—when all you could think were the golden days of summer! So blow-up those water wings and head out to the pool!


Heat-Related Illness

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are caused by muscle contractions in both the calf or hamstring area. It feels like a severe muscle pull. The cramps are caused by dehydration, high temperatures and lack of physical conditioning. While heat cramps are painful, they are not life threatening. However, ignoring heat cramps can lead to some of the more serious heat related illnesses. Heat cramps can be treated with water, cool air and rest.

Heat Exhaustion

Much like it sounds, heat exhaustion is severe exhaustion caused by extreme body heat. Excessive heat and dehydration can cause the body to overreact—raising your body well over 98.6. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include extreme fatigue, paleness, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, vomiting, fainting and cool, clammy skin. Heat Exhaustion is more serious the heat cramps and should be addressed immediately. Cool, shady environments, liquids, cool compresses placed on the body and sports drinks are used to treat heat exhaustion. If the body temperature remains elevated after treatment, you should seek medical treatment.

Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke is the most severe of the heat-related illnesses, and needs immediate medical attention! High temperatures, lack of body fluids and overexposure to the elements can all bring about Heat Stroke. Children and elderly people are especially susceptible to the hazards of this heat related illness. The first symptom of heat stroke is red, flushed skin. With heat stroke, a person doesn’t sweat, so medical attention is needed to bring down their body temperature (which can get extremely high). Other symptoms include: seizures, headache, rapid pulse, and unconsciousness.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Confessions of an Endurance Junkie

I think everyone has their addictions—coffee, soda, caffeine (alcohol, crack, meth...). Obviously some addictions are worse than others. For about ten years now I've been an endurance junkie.

It all started with a beginning running class for women that I took in my upper 20s. It was in that class I finally learned how to run. And we were all beginners, so it really didn't matter how fast I could run. I quickly realized I could never win races. I'm just not fast enough. Believe me, I've worked on it. I've tried to be fast. It's just not the way I was made. Endurance, however, is another story. I can't run or bike the miles fast, but I can run or bike a bunch of them.

Within a year of that running class I had signed up for my first marathon. It was the Ridge Runner Marathon in Cairo, WV. It was 26.2 miles of hills. I ran it with my friend, Cheri. And by mile 18 we were struggling. By mile 24 we felt like we were near death! As I crossed the finish line I swore I would NEVER run another marathon again. EVER! By 6pm that night I was wondering which marathon I would do next.

That's the cycle of an endurance junkie (at least in my experience). I've done six more marathons (and numerous relays and halves) since then. And each time as I struggle through miles 24 – 26 I swear I'm never doing another. Two years ago I ran the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, at the end of that marathon, my knees made the decision for me. “Enough is enough!” they said. So I had to cut back. For a year and a half I did very little distance—maybe a five-mile race or a 5k here or there. I've slowly been venturing back, seeing how my knees are going to handle it. We did a ten mile race in June. And I plan to do a half marathon in October.

Now my husband and I are training for a Century ride (100 miles) on our bikes. I took two years away from endurance. I gained weight. I slacked off on my workouts. Basically, I lacked focus. I need endurance in my life. If I can't get my fix running, I'll get it on my bike.

This will be my second Century ride. My first (much like my first marathon) was a crazy hilly ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains. At one point during a particularly harsh climb around mile 79 my quad muscles seized up on me. I would pedal a few rotations, then have to get off the bike to stretch out the cramps. I think it took me nearly an hour to get up that hill. It was hateful at the time, but looking back it makes me giddy.

This Century is a little more sane. It's mostly flat with just a few rolling hills. It's also for a charity that's very near and dear to me (M.S. Pedal to the Point), which makes it a little more meaningful.

The thing about my addiction—it's very time consuming. I mean the actual ride or race you're doing takes hours (for some of us it takes more hours than for others). But preparing for the actual event takes a real time commitment. Mark and I have been building up our biking miles for five weeks now. Which means one of our weekend days is spent on our bikes. Sure, the 40-miler didn't take too much time—maybe three hours. But yesterday's 85-mile ride literally took up our entire day. And it physically hurts to bike for that long. But the pain is where the junky tendencies come to play. The whole basis of my addiction is pushing my body physically beyond where I think it's capable of going. It hurts at the time. It's hateful at the time. But when you push past that point...past the point you feel your body can go, you get a serious high.

Endurance is my drug of choice. It keeps me focused. It keeps me trim. It keeps me strong. I'm not recommending it for everyone. It's hard on your body. My own mother thinks I'm crazy. She's a yoga instructor and feels that any time your body feels pain, you are pushing it too far. She has a point. At 39 I have the knees of a 65 year-old, and I see a chiropractor every week (if I could afford it, I would see a masseuse too)! But it's my addiction and I'm not ready to give it up yet. For me, the benefits outweigh the costs.

What's your addiction?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Make the Most of your Staycation

Over the July 4th weekend, my husband and I had made plans to spend a few days in Asheville, NC. We have never been there and heard that it is our kind of place. We planned to explore the river (i.e. Sliding Rock), trails and do a little rock climbing. Fate had other plans. Our 18-year-old cat became very ill so we decided to spend the four-day break around home so we could keep an eye on him. So our vacation became a staycation.

With four days to entertain ourselves, we needed to see what the Dayton area had to offer. We wanted to make the most of our staycation.

We’re training for a 100-mile charity bike ride and needed to log 70 miles on our bikes, so we decided to get that out of the way on Friday. What we found is that Dayton has a fantastic bike trail system. We’ve been on a lot of the paved trails before, but with 70 miles to cover we discovered even more of them. We started at our house in Bellbrook, Ohio and road on the street to Spring Valley. From Spring Valley we took a trail to Xenia, through Beavercreek and into downtown Dayton. From Dayton we made our way to West Carrolton…then back into downtown where we stopped at the 2nd Street Market for a late lunch. We biked home through Kettering. The trail through there isn’t complete, but biking the road was safe and easy. We finished our ride by stopping at the farmer’s market back in Bellbrook for some fresh, local produce. What a great day of biking!

On Saturday we decided to go to the CityFolk festival downtown on the river. We spent the afternoon strolling through the festival, listening to music and sampling food. The evening ended with a great fireworks display above the river. It’s the largest crowd I’ve seen in downtown Dayton. What a great way to get people to appreciate the downtown riverfront area! I hope the steps they’ve taken to make the riverfront more attractive will really give Dayton a boost.

On Sunday we started the day with a run around the Sugarcreek MetroPark. I love running the outer (green) loop of the park. It’s a perfect 5k. The shade and streams make you forget about the heat. And on Sunday it was hot! After our run, we decided we needed to do something to stay cool, so we rented kayaks on the Little Miami River. Whenever we felt to hot, we just jumped in the river to cool off. The river was a tad crowded for my taste, but it was the 4th of July so that’s to be expected. We managed to carve out our own little space on the river and enjoy a nice kayaking trip.

Since we had opted for the staycation we spent Monday catching up on household chores, homework and working on The Fit Life, LLC website. Even that was kind of nice. Now and then you need a day to catch-up!

We will still go visit Asheville one of these days. We always have our eyes open for a retirement destination. But it was nice to stay home and appreciate what Dayton has to offer us. So often we go elsewhere looking for adventure, when there is adventure to be had right in your own backyard.
What adventures can you find in your hometown?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ask The Fit Life

Check out The Fit Life's newest blog: Ask the Fit Life. We'll answer your fitness and nutrition questions! If you have a fitness or nutrition question, post it to the blog or email it to

About Me

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I am the owner of The Fit Life, LLC. The Fit Life, LLC offers fitness instruction and nutrition counseling in a holistic way. I focus on personal training using mainly your own body strength--very little equipment. I also hold a certification in holistic nutrition. Because nutrition counseling regulations are very strict in Ohio, I'm still working on what nutrition services I can provide to my clients; however, I'm happy to provide general nutrition information. I enjoy teaching TRX, Indoor Cycling, and Boot Camps.