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Want a safer sweat session in the heat? A sports medicine doctor has some advice

Summer is officially here and so are the hotter temperatures. That doesn't mean your workouts have to move indoors.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The South End RunBots gather at Wooden Robot Brewery off Tryon Street each Tuesday for their weekly run. But temperatures also climbed into the 90s. So, Matt Nolan plans to take his efforts at a more modest pace than usual.

"Tonight it is really hot -- I think it got up to 95 or something like that, so I will be running slow," Nolan said, noting that going at one's comfortable pace is welcome with this social running club where people can choose from one, three, or five-mile routes and get a free beer with fellow runners at the end.

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"I'll be doing it, knowing that I'm hanging out with some good people," Nolan said. "It's all just building that sense of community."

Dr. Keith Anderson, a sports medicine doctor with Novant Health, said the take-it-easier approach is encouraged as hotter temperatures settle in and outdoor athletes need some time to condition their bodies for the new environment.

When people strive for the same results in harsher conditions, they can get into trouble, he said.

"You wouldn't want to take your normal workout that you do at 60 degrees, and try and do that exact same workout at 90 degrees, and expect to go the same speed and the same distance," Anderson said. "That's likely where you're going to struggle, you're going to get dehydrated, your muscles are going to get more sore. It's going to take you days to recover."

Anderson recommends scaling back at first. 

For example, someone who usually runs for one hour might start with a 30- or 45-minute run. They could also run for the full hour at a slower pace or do some of the run outside and the rest inside on a treadmill.

Credit: WCNC
South End RunBots, a running club that meets at Wooden Robot Brewery, meets for its Tuesday run session

While the conditioning process for new temperatures can be a longer-term one, he said that shouldn't discourage people from trying.

"It's not that you should think, 'Well, I don't have a month to do it, so I shouldn't do it at all,'" Anderson said. "Any time you spend in the heat is going to be better for that acclimatization."

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As for hydrating with extreme heat and humidity, it's not something you can cram all at once. Anderson recommends drinking before the workout -- but with enough time to absorb, and not so much that it causes stomach discomfort during the activity. 

Those working out for more than 30 minutes should have some water during the activity, and those working for more than an hour should have water and some calories, he said.

"64 to 100 ounces is generally the right amount of water for your basic day, and if you're going to be exercising or sweating a lot, obviously you need to increase that, but it's hard to give people that upper limit," Anderson said, noting that it will vary by person.

Charlotte runner's shop Run For Your Life has a map of the city's water fountains, so folks can stay hydrated as they run or bike around the area.

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram  

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