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The Sports Doctor/Managing the heat for distance running

Updated 1:44 pm, Monday, June 10, 2013
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One must realize that a half marathon in June can take place on a very warm day. The Fairfield Half Marathon will take place on June 23.

It would be helpful to know some hot-weather running tips in order to stay cool and safe.

• A way of pre-cooling the body is to take a hand towel or small bath towel and wet them with cold water. Place them in the freezer overnight and put them on your neck, head and back 10-15 minutes before the race starts. You can run with them until they are no longer cold.

• Electrolytes will prevent cramping and maintain better fluid balance. You can drink extra sports beverages to get your electrolytes in balance. I do not recommend experimenting with something completely new the day of a race. If you have used anything like these electrolyte products before, you shouldn't have a problem. Never forget about water, which is the magic fluid and keep drinking it every chance possible.

• Every chance you get, dump water on yourself. Carry a bottle of cold water to keep squirting yourself every five to eight minutes. The longer you can keep your skin and core cool, the better you'll be able to run.

• Try to spread out your fluid intake so you're taking small amounts (4-5 ounces every few minutes). Again, that might mean you have to carry a bottle or be adept at carrying a cup, but it's worth it in the early miles.

• Drink early in the race and don't be afraid to slow down through the aid stations. Missing a water stop when it's 85 degrees is not a smart idea.

• You're going to need to adjust your pace to account for the temperatures. Starting out too fast and overheating is not the best way to run your best race and stay safe.

• It is most important to wear the proper clothing while running. Wear extremely light-weight clothing that can be soaked with water at aid stations.

• Cover your head with a light-colored vented hat and fill the hat with ice at aid stations if it's available.

• If it is a hot day, run the up hills in moderation, as one can always pick up the time downhill.

• During the pre-race week, eat right, get mentally prepared and think about your hydration plan. Implement some of the tips I mentioned above. While the time may not be a personal record, you will perform your absolute best and walk away from the race knowing you gave it your all on what will be a great day.

Dr. Robert Weiss lives in Westport and has a sports-podiatry practice in Darien. He is a former marathon runner and was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and the 1988 Olympic Trials.

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