Contributor - Ashley Dier
We’ve all been there - the sun is shining, your run is going great, you feel like a million bucks. Suddenly you start to get a little warm, then thirsty, then comes cramping and before you realize it, you’re overheating. You scramble to find the nearest fountain and try to cool down but it's too late. Your body is telling you to take a break and cool down, you listen and begrudgingly end the run.
Overheating, it's a serious, year-round issue for runners (yes, you can overheat in the winter) and ignoring the signs can be crippling. The sun doesn't need to be blazing for you to overheat during strenuous activity, overdressing in cold weather can be just as troublesome. Turns out that little, sometimes embarrassing act of sweating is really important and essential for our bodies to operate effectively. Sweating is actually your body’s way of keeping itself cool. When your body doesn't cool down you’re at risk of developing a heat illness - like heat stroke.
What’s actually happening when we sweat?
- When we run our muscles contract and produce heat, increasing our our body temperature.
- The more our muscles are working the more heat is produced and the warmer we become.
- When heat is generated, our body sends signals to our blood vessels and sweat glands.
- After a series of signals and triggers throughout the body our blood sends heat to the skin resulting in sweat.
- Eventually the sweat on the skin evaporates and the body is cooled.
As a runner, overheating is something I struggle with year round. Heat management relies on a few key factors: the outdoor temperature, my body temperature and my bodies ability (or at times inability) to regulate them both. When my body overheats or is unable to keep cool during a race the results not only affect me physically (heat stroke is real) but can also dissolve months of hard work and training. Nothing stresses the importance of staying cool quite like heat stroke does.
The human body is incredible and really great at adapting, but let's be honest we all make mistakes sometimes. To avoid anything too disastrous and medically dangerous, it's important to acknowledge the signs of overheating when they first present themselves. Running is an incredibly rewarding activity, don’t have your run cut short because you didn't stay cool.
So remember, sweating is good and being cool is cool - and who doesn't want to be cool?