Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Heat, humidity no sweat for some exercisers - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

By Doug Gulasy

Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
Updated 43 minutes ago

Dan Bogesdorfer can’t help it — he enjoys running in the heat.

â€Å"I actually try to push myself the hotter that it gets,” said Bogesdorfer, 43, of Monroeville, who works at the University of Pittsburgh. His route takes him through East Liberty, where he sees â€Å"a big sign that tells you how hot it is that day.

â€Å"When it hits 95, I know I’ve hit my goal and I’m running through the hottest day so far this year.”

Bogesdorfer, who runs in the late morning or early afternoon, has had plenty of chances to achieve his goal this summer.

Through the end of July, the temperature had reached 90 degrees or above 18 times in Pittsburgh this year, according to the National Weather Service — matching the total for all of 2011.

The weather service says is predicting a 50 percent chance that August, typically muggy, will have higher temperatures than normal. Normal high temperatures are 82 at the beginning of the month and 80 at the end.

â€Å"Expect higher than that,” said Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist for the weather service in Moon.

Bogesdorfer, who served in the Army for seven years after high school and now runs 20 to 30 miles a week, said he rarely sees others ouside exercising when he does.

â€Å"If I do, I say: ‘You’re one of the crazy ones, huh?’ ” he said.

Bogesdorfer’s lack of company is probably a good thing, according to local doctors. Although some people like and know how to handle extreme heat, most recreational athletes should alter their workout routines when the weather gets especially hot and humid.

â€Å"I know that the lunchtime workout is a very popular thing, but in the summer, that’s not necessarily the wisest idea because that’s when the sun is at its hottest,” said Moira Davenport, doctor of emergency medicine and sports medicine at Allegheny General Hospital and an avid runner herself. â€Å"It’s that much harder to maintain any effective cooling at that point.”

Medical professionals say people should do whatever they can to stay cool when working out — change exercise times to mornings before 9 a.m. and evenings after 7 p.m.; work out indoors instead of outdoors; wear clothing that wicks away moisture; and make sure to stay hydrated before, during and after workouts.

Doing so can keep dangerous heat illnesses — dehydration, exhaustion, stroke and more — at bay, they said.

Most importantly, people should realize their body has limits.

â€Å"If you start having heat cramps, that’s the time to shut it down,” said Ron DeAngelo, director of sports performance training at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

â€Å"You can’t really work through those. You can stop and stretch as you normally would, but when you have heat cramps, if it’s progressed to that point, you’ve got to shut it down, get into a cool area and hydrate.”

He said a heat index — which combines heat and humidity considerations — of 85 is around the point at which people ought to pay special attention to how their body is reacting and make changes. When the heat index hits 95, people should work out inside or not at all.

People who are overweight, just undertaking a fitness program or who have had previous heat-related illnesses are most at risk for trouble, DeAngelo said.

Local officials and gyms say they have noticed an overall difference in people’s activities this summer in response to the heat.

Gary Pinkerton, Butler County’s director of parks and recreation, said he’s noticed more people exercising at the county’s Alameda Park early in the morning. A lot of them stick to the shaded paths, he said.

â€Å"Even in a lot of the local parks that I’ve been to because we’re doing projects in them, you see the walkers and joggers earlier in the day than you normally would simply because of the heat,” Pinkerton said. â€Å"But I don’t think it’s affected the number of people that still go out and participate in those activities.”

As expected, people also are packing the county’s Alameda Pool in greater numbers than normal’ however, one of its biggest amenities — the pool is heated — isn’t necessary this summer.

â€Å"We’re saving a few dollars this year,” Pinkerton said.

Upper St. Clair has both indoor and outdoor pools at its community recreation center, along with an indoor track, workout machines, two gymnasiums and a group exercise room.

Bobby Davenport, fitness supervisor at the center, said the pools — particularly the indoor lap-lane pool — have had the greatest usage this summer.

Even gyms, which typically get less attendance in the summer, have plenty of business this summer.

â€Å"In 100-degree heat, or 90-degree heat with a 105-degree heat index, there’s only so much you can do outside without risking dehydration,” said Mike Reicherter, manager at Fitness Factory in Shadyside. â€Å"Especially older people or people with pre-existing conditions. So we’ve had a pretty busy summer.”

DeAngelo said the biggest â€Å"X-factor” this summer has been the increased humidity — making it more difficult for a person’s sweat to evaporate and thus making it more difficult to stay cool while exercising.

He advises people either to work out inside or not at all when the heat index reaches 95 degrees, particularly if they’re not used to exercising.

Davenport said most people who exercise regularly will still find a way to do it in extreme summer conditions, but they need to take the necessary precautions.

â€Å"It’s just the little things that people (can) do,” she said. â€Å"There’s a whole bunch of different variables that you can change to actually make it safer and more comfortable to exercise in this weather.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or

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