Doc - It's too hot outside!

For the locals who just suffered through 42C temperatures recently, I feel your pain! But there is nothing worse than 35+C WITH the bonus 100% humidity, you know, our usual summer heat. For those soon-to-be ‘tourists’ to Cairns from further afield, it’s nice to be prepared for our delightful weather! It means exercising becomes more difficult and unpleasant, although it is not impossible.

Medically speaking, there is a spectrum of heat illness, from dehydration to exercise-associated collapse and even heat stroke.  These are more common in endurance sports and those athletes with underlying medical issues or who are untrained (*hint hint*).  If you do start to feel crook, get some cool fluid into you, lie down in the shade, put your feet up and ask a friend to keep you company, preferably fanning you at the same time (aren’t they nice!).  If you don’t start to feel better soon, get some medical help.

Here are a few tips, useful for exercising in the heat:

  • Try to keep the majority of your training to the cooler hours of early morning or evening.
  • Slip, slop, slap, wrap.  Queensland is skin cancer capital.  Enough said. Make sure your clothing is lightweight and breathable
  • Hydration!
    • But how much I hear you ask? A basic rule we use with high level athletes is pre-game weight and post-game weight – where the amount of weight lost (in kilograms) = fluid required (in litres). Easy enough!  Otherwise 500ml/hr is pretty safe for most athletes – then keep an eye on your urine colour (too dark, increase fluid intake).
    • Sports drinks vs water? Water makes up the majority of our bodies so is best for rehydrating however you can drink too much! Same for sports drinks (ie Powerade/Gatorade). These are full of extra electrolytes, which are great to replace, but can be overdone and cause issues with your heart, so a mix of both types is safe.

For the positive spin, exercising in the heat has its benefits, including improved fitness responses. Many elite teams, like the Australian Swim Team, schedule training camps in hot environments (such as Cairns) for these benefits and acclimitisation can take up to 7-10 days – if you need another excuse to come to Cairns a week prior to the Games…

Finally, don’t be afraid of the sweat, it’s your body’s personal cooling mechanism so heavy sweating can be a good thing!

Dr Kira James is a Sport & Exercise Medicine Registrar with FNQ Sports Medicine, living it up in Cairns.  She has previously loved using the heat excuse to get out of running training however the post-run pool dunk works a charm to cool-off.