Before You Walk in Hot Weather

Arizona Black Rock Trail Saguaro Cactus
Arizona Black Rock Trail. Wendy Bumgardner ©

When the heat is on, you need to prepare yourself properly for walking. Arm yourself with the right clothing, gear, fluids and knowledge of heat sickness symptoms.

Breathable and Sweat Wicking Tops
A few years ago, cotton was the miracle cloth that breathed. Today, modern microfibers such as Cool-Max not only breathe but also wick sweat away from the skin and allow it to evaporate rapidly, providing even more cooling.

Your shirts and sports bras should be made of these modern wicking fabrics for maximum coolness.

If your thighs are prone to chafing, choose the bike-style shorts. You may want to layer them under looser shorts. Shorts should also be made of wicking, breathable fabrics. If you use lots of arm motion, avoid shorts with side pockets on which you may jam your thumbs. Running shorts often have a built-in panty so you don't need additional underwear.

Hats and Neck Coolers
Never go out into the sun without a hat. Look for hats made of Cool-Max and with vents or mesh to allow your head to breathe. For long walks, consider a hat with a neck drape to keep your neck from burning. Also look for neck coolers such as the Cobber or Cool Ties. You soak them in cold water, put them around your neck and they cool for hours.

Chafing and Blisters and Sunscreen
Heat plus sweat equals chafed skin at your underarms, chest, crotch and thighs. This can be prevented by using an anti-chafing product before you walk. Blisters are easier to get when it is hot. Prepare your feet before you walk. And, of course - always wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater.

Water AND Sports Drink
An hour before your walk, drink a large glass of water. While walking drink a cup of water every mile. On long walks, after an hour switch to a sports drink that contains salts (electrolytes) to maintain your salt balance. If you drink only water while exercising and sweating you may end up in the hospital from depleting your body salt.

Know the Signs of Heat Illness
Your walk is not worth an ambulance ride to the hospital. Heat stroke is a true medical emergency - when your temperature and salt balance is off, it rapidly damages your kidneys and other internal organs. Stop and cool down at the first signs of heat sickness.

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