If I had seen a second of that program about dragons and stuff on the Home Box Office channel, I could continue the allusion. But I haven’t so I can’t. But I can however tell you that the hotter-than-hell-fire breathing dragon that is summer in Central Texas is starting her terrifying approach. Temps are already topping out at the low 90’s in Austin, Texas. People, get ready, a lack of rain is comin’. I share my tips on how to deal. Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor in real life or TV. I’m just telling you how I deal with the heat. If you have or may have a medical condition that makes being outside dangerous, ask a real doctor, not a dude. This goes for everything on my blog. If my experience helps, great. But always use common sense, take responsibility, and you do you.
Phase 1: Get Ready
I’m calling this section Phase 1. Sounds very official and authoritative, right? The age-old wisdom about not dying in the heat has not changed. Unless you’re new to Texas and have been living in a northern climate, or maybe you’re a shape-shifting visitor who just landed on this planet, then you already know that it gets friggin’ hot here. Like up in the 100’s, sometimes for 90 days a year. You simply must hydrate, use sun-screen, cover up with clothing, and so on. It’s not the desert, but it’s H-A-W-T!
One step that’s key to this process is acclimation. Literally it means getting used to the climate. I swear by it, to the extent that I can do it. As a car-free dude, I’m pretty much forced to be out every day. But if you’re a car person you need to slowly getting yourself used to the heat to help your body to survive it. Going from super chilled dry air to the humid hot stuff is tough on anyone’s body, but especially my fathlete, mid-aged meat sack. AC is absolutely necessary for me to cool down after being outdoors and to not be all sweaty inside all day and especially at night, either. You must also know the signs and differences between heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and in either case, stop before it’s too late. Look it up!
But first, you simply gotta start venturing out more. So, if you want to bike, get your Vitamin D level up, and enjoy the great outdoors, it helps if you dip your toes in the water (or pools of sweat) before completely plunging in. The following approaches help me:
- go for walks when it’s warm but not too hot (morning and evening)
- hang outside in the shade with a fan on you
- work your way up to more sun exposure with a hat, sunscreen and even arm and leg protectors
- go to a swimming hole or pool, and when you get too hot, jump in
- find shady areas like Town Lake, the Southern Walnut Creek Trail, or a park with plenty of tree cover to go biking on first
- PRO TIP: start going to a dry sauna and/or steam room in winter
Phase 2: Get Set
Once you’ve tried these things in Phase 1 to get yourself slowly outside more, you will begin to notice changes. Your blood may be thinning, so it’s not quite as miserable as the first dozen times. You may find yourself not hating the sweat and discomfort quite as much and instead you’re focusing a bit more on enjoying what you’re doing. If you take it slowly, it won’t be a shock on that first 100 degree day. So take it easy, but you have to get out there. Now you’re ready for Phase 2.
There are plenty of hydration products on the market. From your “ades” (Gator and Power), to powders, gels and more, you have plenty of choices. The only one you actually really need for most occasions is the old hydrogen dioxide, the H20, wa-wa, or water. It’s shocking the amount of people in the US who go to extreme lengths to drink everything but plain water. But that’s what you’re made of — 55-60 percent water, depending if you’re male or female. Just drink it! Put lemon, lime, orange, or cucumber slices into if you like to improve the taste. A filter is good, too. The key is to drink up BEFORE you get thirsty. After that, you’re already into dehydration. Yes, you will pee a lot. Just deal.
If you are sweating profusely for long periods, those additional fluids with electrolytes have merit. Sugar-free or low sugar are better. I like Nuun tabs, which are easy to transport and come in different flavors. Gu also makes a similar product, and even the Emergen-C brand used more for when you’re sick has good options. I like to have one water bottle that’s for water and the other for Nuun-flavored water. Some swear by coconut water, DrinkMaple and many others. Find what works with your budget.
Remember, sweating is normal and natural. I do NOT recommend anti-perspirants. If you need to be presentable invest in some portable Wet Wipes.
If you’re going to be out in the direct sun in the middle of the day for any more than say 10′, you of course also have to think about your skin. You would be well advised to invest in good sunscreen. And, be sure to reapply often as directed. There’s plenty of advice about which ones to use; my dermatologist recommends PureScreen for Babies sunscreen by Neutrogena. I’ve used more natual ones as well like Badger. Some swear by the Environmental Working Group’s list of what’s safe, but others say it is not that scientific. Some sunscreens may cause hormone disruption, though. Again, ask a doc.
Here’s a big one: increase your intake of non-starchy fruit and vegetables. These contain plenty of water, vitamins and minerals. Did you know mangoes have more potassium than bananas? And melons have more Vitamin C than an orange? Salads, gazpacho, watermelon…. yum!
Phase 3: Go!
So, it’s time for Phase 3. You’ve been increasing your water intake, you’ve been slowly increasing your time outside, maybe you’ve augmented your sun protection product game. So you know your limits and some ways to not burn to a crisp.
I say go for it. Go on that 50-mile training ride with the charity ride group, local bike shop or bike advocacy organization. Yes, you’re going to be hot, and you’re going to suffer. But you also know you can handle it, because you’ve been preparing. Of course, always listen to your body and don’t overdo it. There’s no shame in “sagging out” (getting a ride in a vehicle) or cutting your ride short if you are feeling, weak, faint, nauseated, and so on. If you’re near a bus with bike racks, be sure to carry the change to get on it. The point is, as nice guy Sam says: “live to ride another day.”
Here are some additional products, tips and tricks I like to use:
- semi-freeze your water bottles, so by the time you really need a cold drink, it’s still chilled
- plan your route to go by a convenience store around the half-way mark
- get a lightweight boating hat with long brim, side and rear flaps – I got mine from Academy and wear this under my bike helmet
- if you haven’t made the switch to Lycra jerseys and shorts, do so now – the evaporative cooling material makes a world of difference
- use a neckerchief filled with crystals you can pre-chill and put around your neck to cool it off – I haven’t tried it yet but hear it may help
- Heliocare is an herbal supplement popular in Europe my dermatologist said can help augment sunscreen and clothing
- Pickle Juice makes a tasty high sodium drink that’s good for preventing cramps; it comes in tiny bottles that fit in your bike jersey
- Austin is lucky to have Barton Springs and Deep Eddy, spring-fed pools that are around 68 degrees, see if there’s one near you
- PRO TIP: If you can’t get to a spring, ice baths are intense but a great way to relax if you can stand it; just ump a couple of bags of ice in your tub and enjoy the inflammation-reducing benefits – if you can stand it!
Well, that’s my three-phase program for dealing with the summer heat of Texas or wherever you may be or travel to. If you remember one thing, drink more water than you think you should, before, during and after you go out. Here’s to your health! Salud.
NOTE: I am not being compensated for mentioning any of these products. I really should be though, wouldn’t you agree?
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