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Stay active, stay safe in the heat

Athletes and spectators among the 10,000 in town for the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament beat the heat with mist tents, sno cones and setting up in shady spots. The experts' top advice for safely exercising outside on hot days? Hydrate.
Kari Dequine Harden

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s hot out. But that doesn’t stop people from staying active and enjoying the magnificent outdoors and precious months of summer in Steamboat Springs.  

“If you needed to stay cool, you wouldn’t do anything,” said Frances Jenkins, a certified athletic trainer and physician’s assistance. “But that’s not Steamboat, and that’s not most people I know.”

However, there are ways to stay safe while exercising in the heat, she said, from her post at the UCHealth SportsMed Clinic’s first aid tent during the weekend’s Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament.



“Water, water, water,” Jenkins said, adding that staying hydrated cannot be over-emphasized. “When you think you’ve had enough water, drink more.”

The body’s mechanism for cooling is sweating, she explained. If you don’t have enough fluids in your body, you won’t sweat enough, you won’t cool off and your core body temperature rises.

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When a person exercises, their body works harder to send blood flow and oxygen where it needs to go, and it is vital to make sure the body’s natural cooling systems are working effectively.

Sports drinks with electrolytes can be beneficial for someone running a marathon, Jenkins noted, but water does just fine for the average athlete playing a soccer game.

On Saturday, Jenkins was mostly occupied with wrapping ankles and handing out ice packs for sore knees.

Lucky for us, the drier climate makes it easier to cool off, she said. In more humid climates, sweat does not so readily evaporate. Still, people who are not used to the higher altitude need to remember to also take that into consideration.

At the various soccer fields across town, the SportsMed Clinic also provided mist tents, sunscreen stations and paper fans — “Anything to help people beat the heat,” Jenkins said.

Shady spots were at a premium during the tournament, and Jenkins pointed out that the spectators also have to make sure they are staying hydrated, especially some of the grandparents and young children.

“Their thermoregulatory systems are not as sophisticated and don’t work as well,” she said.

In addition, much of staying safe has to do with how physically fit a person is going into any aerobic activity on a hot day.

If you haven’t been exercising regularly, be careful about how much you do at one time, she said.

Acclimation helps. 

Jenkins also recommends wearing light-colored, lightweight and breathable clothing.

The following is a list of more tips to stay safe and beat the heat.

• Exercise in the morning or evening.

• Bring a cold towel or spray bottle.

Eat fruit.

Avoid wearing antiperspirant.

• Before a workout, take a cold bath or eat a slushie. Keep drinking water after a workout.

• Don’t wait to feel dehydrated before you hydrate, and make sure that urine is clear.

• Take a rest in the shade or a dip in a river or lake.

• Listen to your body and be aware of signs of heat-related illness, such as feeling cold, clammy, dizzy or nauseous, or having blurred vision, headaches or vomiting.

If the body’s natural cooling systems fail, it can lead to heat-related illnesses like heat cramps, heat exhaustion — when the body temperature rises as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit — or heatstroke. Heatstroke, which occurs when the body temperatures rises over 104, can do permanent damage and be life-threatening.

While hydrating remains at the top of the list for avoiding heat-related illness and keeping systems working properly, it is possible to drink too much water, Jenkins acknowledged. But, that would have to be an enormous amount of water, she said, likening it to the amount of carrots you would need to eat to turn orange.

Bottom line: don’t let the heat keep you from staying active — but be smart about it. Bring plenty of water, and help your body cool as it is designed to do. And remember to celebrate your sweat — not only does it make your skin feel cooler, it also removes heat.


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