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Your body is a fine-tuned machine when it comes to cooling itself. Sweating is the main method in which you keep from overheating. Replenishing fluids through drinking also cools you down. Overheating occurs when your internal cooling system is overloaded. Running and other forms of physical activity can lead to overheating easily when you push yourself too hard in hot weather.
The symptoms of overheating during a run vary according to the severity of the condition. Many people mistakenly take thirst as a sign that you are overheated and dehydrated, but this is not necessarily the case, according to MarathonGuide.com. Thirst while you are running does indeed tell you that you need to replenish fluids, but this symptom alone does not mean you are overheating. Early symptoms of heat-related illnesses can include painful muscle cramps centered mainly in the legs and abdominal region. You may sweat profusely but your skin remains cool and you probably will not have an elevated body temperature. As your body is less able to cool itself off, you can become sick to your stomach, develop a headache, experience weakness and run a fever. Sweating usually ceases during this phase of overheating -- called heat exhaustion -- and your skin might feel cold and clammy to the touch. Your heart rate increases and your blood pressure can drop with heat exhaustion, too. Heatstroke is the most serious form of overheating during exercise or from overexposure to extremely hot temperatures. Heatstroke can occur when your body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; symptoms such as confusion and loss of consciousness can also be indicative of heatstroke. Your skin will feel hot to the touch and may be red in color.
Cooling your body down and re-hydrating are important to achieve quickly when you overheat during running. Stop exercising and move to a shady spot in an effort to reduce your internal temperature. Seek immediate medical attention if you show signs of heatstroke. Heatstroke can lead to brain damage and can even be fatal if not treated immediately, according to MayoClinic.com. People with heatstroke are often treated with intravenous fluids to fight dehydration and to bring their body temperature down. Drink plenty of water -- between 4 and 8 ounces every 20 minutes, recommends MarathonGuide.com, before and during your run to prevent yourself from overheating. Sports drinks are also beneficial because they replace electrolytes that are lost when you sweat. Electrolyte minerals, including sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium are essential to proper nerve and muscle function. Pour water over your head when you feel yourself getting overheated during a run. The difference in temperature between the water and the air can cool your skin until you are able to find shade and replenish your fluids internally.
Prevent overheating during your workout by dressing appropriately. Wear lightweight layers that are easy to remove if needed. Cotton is thought to be a cooling fabric and does let your skin breathe, but it is not the best choice for running in hot weather. Cotton soaks up your sweat and holds the moisture and heat next to your skin. Opt for synthetic materials such as microfiber jerseys or singlets that wick moisture away from your skin. Wear light colors that are designed to reflect the sun's rays away from you. Darker shades absorb the sunlight more readily and can contribute to overheating. Clothing that fits loosely is ideal; shorts or tops that are form-fitting hold heat in. Loosen your clothing as much as possible when feeling the effects of heat exhaustion. Wear sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen to protect your skin not only from overheating but also from harmful UV rays.
Adjust your running schedule so you are not out on the track during the hottest part of the day. This means noontime through midafternoon for most areas. Run in the morning before the sun is at its peak or wait until after sunset in the evenings. Your body can take several weeks to adjust to hot temperatures. When the heat and humidity are overbearing, shorten your run as you become acclimated to the weather. Increase your mileage or workout session gradually, bringing extra water with you each time.