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Obstacle Racing in the Heat: 7 Tips

13 Aug 2015

heat-834468_1920If you have an obstacle race anytime in the summer, chances are you’ll have to contend with the challenges brought on by hot, sweltering temperatures.

And if you live in warmer climates, you probably have to deal with extreme heat throughout the year.

Obstacle racing in the heat can be dangerous if you fail to take the right precautions.

Obstacle race training in hot weather puts extra stress on the body and puts you at a risk of serious illness. The hard physical strain put into training and racing, combined with the heat, cause a sharp rise in your core body temperature.

If humidity is also high, the body faces additional stress since the sweat does not evaporate easily from the skin. This, in turn, pushes the body’s temperature even higher. When your body’s temperature is extremely elevated, you can be at risk of heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related complications may start off mild, but can quickly worsen if left untreated. It’s important to be aware of symptoms and warning signs.

OCRs in Hot Weather: Heat-related Complications & Illnesses

Dehydration

Since your body is working hard to cool itself in the heat, you lose water faster than usual. You’ll need to replace it! If you don’t keep up by drinking lots of water or an electrolyte-rich sports drink, you will be at risk of dehydration. Severe dehydration often leads to more advanced heat-related complications.

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If ignored, severe dehydration can lead to other complications when exercising in the heat.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are painful muscle cramps. The affected muscles may even hurt when touched. Although cramping can occur during training in the heat, it’s not uncommon for it to take place a few hours after hard exercise in hot weather.

Heat Syncope

Extreme dehydration while exercising in the heat contributes to heat syncope. The symptoms include a feeling of lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting that is caused by exertion in high temperatures.

Racers can suffer from exercise-associated fainting or collapse during obstacle racing or training in the heat. A feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness while racing or training is a warning sign and precursor to fainting.

Heat Exhaustion

When you suffer from heat exhaustion, your body temperature can increase to as high as 104 F (40 C). The symptoms of heat exhaustion are nausea, headache, vomiting, weakness, and cold clammy skin. Heat exhaustion should be treated immediately or else it might lead to something more serious – heatstroke.

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Signs of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea, vomiting, and weakness. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is perhaps the most dangerous of all heat illnesses or complications. It is in fact a life-threatening emergency condition and occurs when your body temperature is higher than 104 F (40 C).

Some of the symptoms of heatstroke are severe fatigue, heart rhythm problems, confusion, dizziness, irritability, nausea, visual problems, etc. In extreme cases, heatstroke can lead to brain damage, organ failure, and even death.

The good news is that you can prevent most of the complications and illnesses associated with training and obstacle course racing in the heat. Here’s what you can do.

7 Tips for Obstacle Racing and Training in the Heat

1. Wear appropriate clothes.

Stick to fabrics that wick away moisture and cool down your body temperature. Avoid clothes that soak up the heat and don’t allow it to evaporate when you are obstacle racing.

2. Always stay hydrated.

Have plenty of water throughout an obstacle course race. You will need to rehydrate yourself constantly to avoid suffering from dehydration, heat cramps, fatigue, and worse. Always carry a bottle of water with you and drink as often as you can. Rather than drinking a lot of water all at once, try to drink small amounts more frequently than usual.

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Hydrate frequently to help maintain training and racing performance in the heat.

3. Avoid obstacle racing in peak heat.

Many obstacle course races have waves in early in the morning, so if you signed up for an early wave of an event with a shorter course, you may not face the heat at its peak.

But if you are in for a longer race or if the event runs throughout the day, try to pick an early or later wave. The heat is usually at it’s zenith during late morning to mid-afternoon hours. If you have a race planned at that time, be sure to take additional precaution, including the tips outlined here.

4. Protect your skin.

Apply sunscreen to any part of the skin that is exposed when obstacle racing. This can help protect you, particularly your skin, from some of the hazardous effects of the heat.

Be sure to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun and heat.

5. Start the race slowly.

Start slowly so that your body can acclimatize itself to the heat. Gradually build up the intensity as your body gets used to the heat and builds up much needed tolerance. This applies for your training and actual race days.

6. Look for the shade.

When obstacle race training in the heat, look for trails lined with trees or do your training in a park, where the temperatures are usually cooler than in the heart of the city.

7. Train and race with a team.

When heat exhaustion occurs, it happens all of a sudden. That, alone, is reason for training and racing with a friend or two (or a few). They can help keep you accountable to rehydrating frequently and be on the lookout for heat-induced warning signs and complications.

Training and racing as part of a team will give you added accountability to be safe in the heat.

Follow the tips here when obstacle racing in the heat and stay safe!

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