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Experts: Exercising in midday heat may not be the best workout regimen

Jovian Erquiaga looked weary as he trudged up Bayshore Boulevard toward the Platt Street Bridge. He'd just run the length of the famously scenic sidewalk — 4.5 miles — at 1 p.m. in 90-degree heat.

It's a regular occurrence for the 32-year-old nurse, who is one of many Floridians who prefers to work out in the heat of the day.

"Sweating makes me feel better," Erquiaga said. "I think it helps me get out all the impurities."

While it's true the body does release some toxins through sweat, working out in extreme heat can be as dangerous as it is calorie-burning.

"To be honest, it's definitely more work, but I don't know if they are burning more calories," said Rebecca M. Lopez, an athletic training professor at the University of South Florida. "You're not able to run as hard as you normally would and not able to exercise at the intensity you could if the temperature were lower. You're just working harder because it's hot."

Lopez, who earned a doctorate in kinesiology, is a board-certified athletic trainer and certified strength and conditioning trainer who has researched exertional heat stroke and other exertional heat illnesses.

She doesn't outright discourage the practice of running in extreme temperatures, but she cautions against thinking it's a quick way to drop some weight.

"If you're doing it to sweat, that's just water weight lost and as soon as you drink, you'll put that weight right back on," Lopez explained.

Beth Robie, 22, a senior exercise science student from the University of Tampa, said she occasionally runs Bayshore midday to train herself for races that might happen in less-than-ideal weather — a common occurrence in Florida.

"I've read before that training in humidity and heat can prepare you for adverse conditions," Robie said.

She stopped and started several times, pausing to give herself a break in the few shady areas available on her path.

Robie's not wrong, according to Lopez.

The process she's putting herself through is called acclimatization and should be attempted incrementally over seven to 14 days.

"They need to make sure they start out slowly," Lopez said. "Don't go out for a very long time. Make sure you have fluids and run with a buddy.

"The mindset should be, 'I'm running or exercising not for a time but for a workout.' Listen to your bodies. Start slowly and then slowly increase the time you spend working out."

When acclimatization is complete, Lopez said a person can maintain a midday routine, but they should still remain vigilant against heat stroke and other heat illness.

"I recommend exercising at the coolest times of the day," Lopez said. "It's better than working out midday when you're not going as fast or as hard as you could."

Paul Lloyd, 65, a retiree from Tampa, would prefer to hit the streets before sunrise, but he finds the walkways and paths crowded with other exercisers who all have the same idea and limited space to maneuver. The crowd pushed him to move his workout to midday just so he could have some space.

"There's just too many people with dogs and strollers," he said. "I'm retired. I can go any time of day I want, so I just wait it out. In the cooler months, it's much more evenly spread out."

Coach Deb Voiles of local running club Run Tampa encourages runners, bikers, walkers and exercisers to skip the midday during the summer.

"I would say there are no benefits to training in the midday heat. It is a dangerous practice," she said. "Anyone running in midday heat because they think it is a good training practice is misinformed."

Experts: Exercising in midday heat may not be the best workout regimen 09/26/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 26, 2013 3:30pm]
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