It’s been proven time and again that summer in Austin is hotter than summer in hell, yet hit the hike and bike trail this time of year and you’re far from alone. Austin’s outdoor exercise obsession is second only to our Mexican food obsession, and for a city with so many hobbies, that’s saying something.
But in a place where the thermostat commonly tops 100 degrees, the risks of running outdoors at this time of year are not to be ignored. Most common are sunburn and heat exhaustion, but if heat exhaustion progresses to heatstroke, the condition can be life-threatening.
Luckily for you outdoor runners, there’s no need to resign yourself to turning into an oversized stick of human jerky — or worse — by the end of the summer.
Gilbert Tuhabonye is a national champion runner based here in Austin, and is the founder and owner of a runners’ training group called Gilbert’s Gazelles. The group trains runners of all skill levels, from those who are just starting out to those interested in running the Boston marathon. A survivor of the 1993 genocide in Burundi, running literally helped to save Tuhabonye’s life.
Here, Tuhabonye shares his tips for how to keep from overheating while exercising outdoors in the Texas heat, as well as what he himself does to prevent overheating.
The key to not overheating is to stay hydrated, Tuhabonye says. In a place like Austin where both heat and humidity are high, hydration is vital. (Humidity is hard on runners because it prevents the body’s natural cooling mechanisms — it’s not sweating that cools you down, it’s the evaporation of that sweat, which can’t happen when the air is already saturated.) Tuhabonye doubles his intake of both fluids and fruits at this time of year.
“I am outside nearly every morning between 6 and 11 a.m., when the humidity tends to be really high, so I make sure to drink plenty of water,” Tuhabonye said. “In my truck, I always carry a variety of fruit, like bananas, apples or grapes.”
The sugar in fruit helps runners maintain the proper electrolyte balance and also gives them the boost of energy they need without slowing them down, as high-calorie dairy treats like ice cream would.
Luckily, summer fruits are perfect for hydration. “Summer is a great time for fruits that have lots of water within them, like watermelon and pineapple,” Tuhabonye said. “They are great snacks and a natural source of water and sugars.”
After his run, he eats a light lunch, such as a salad, and follows it with 32 oz. of water (4 cups). Tuhabonye drinks water throughout the day, averaging 80 to 100 oz. per day. He says that ideally, summer runners should drink 1 oz. of water per pound of bodyweight. In other words, someone weighing 150 pounds should drink 150 oz. of water each day — almost 19 cups. If you can’t manage that much, at least get 75 percent of the ideal amount, or 14 cups in this example.
“In addition,” Tuhabonye said, “I only eat twice a day versus five small meals throughout the day, and I feel energized and happy.”
Whether you follow his lead or not, it’s important for runners to eat moderately and lightly, and to include a lot of fresh vegetables in addition to fruits. Runners should also avoid salty snacks, which are quickly dehydrating.
Now, Tuhabonye said, “Go out and run with joy.”
For more information about Tuhabonye, Gilbert’s Gazelles and the Gazelle Foundation, dedicated to building water projects in Burundi, visit www.gilbertsgazelles.com.