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Beware the Burnout – A Blog by Trainer Dan Van Veen

Beware the Burnout…

For most people, burnout has one meaning: Doing something too much for too long until you just can’t do it any more…what may have been enjoyable at one time is now pure poison. Burnout. No fun!

Yup, runners experience that all the time and it’s typically due to biting off that “big chunk” too soon. You will notice that some inexperienced runners will go from their first 5K to training for a marathon. The time commitment and demands on one’s body when you do that lead to burnout. The old adage “slow and steady wins the race” has some merit, especially if you view the “race” as a lifetime of fitness as opposed to a relative moment of achievement.

Yet, having said all that, there is ANOTHER kind of burnout runners face. I’ve been reading about the hundreds of deaths occurring in India due to its incredible heatwave (nearly 122 degrees in some places) they experienced recently. What does India have to do with your 5-mile run today? For the sake of this article, I’ll call it “burnout.”

Too many runners do not comprehend “burnout” — as in heat-related illnesses (such as heat stroke) or the life-long impact it can have on a person. How many times have you heard one of these lines of reasoning:

–if I get too hot, I’ll stop and walk

–don’t worry, I have my water bottle with me

–my body has adjusted to the heat

–There are shady parts on my route

–I have my phone with me, I’ll call if I get in trouble

Actually, all of these lines of reasoning hold some merit, but the problem is, many times by the time you realize that you’re in trouble, you are in REAL trouble . . . in some cases, life and death trouble, while in other cases you may just be super-sensitive to heat .. . for possibly the rest of your life.

Why bring this up now, BEFORE, the summer months are here? Well, it might be a little late to talk about this with some of you if I wait until July to bring it up. When it comes to heat, give it your utmost respect and great caution is well advised.

Let me respond to those “lines of reasoning” I mentioned earlier:

–if you can no longer run, you’ve waited too long. If you’re going to run in the heat, pull back the miles and insert planned shade breaks to cool down a bit AND honestly evaluate yourself

–water bottle? If you get in serious heat trouble (as in overheated to the point of fainting), you need an ice bath — a water bottle is nice, but it won’t do much to cool your core temperature…and what happens to that ice-cold water bottle after running with it for 20 or so minutes? Yup, luke-warm water at best!!

–adjusting to heat…okay. I believe bodies CAN adjust to heat to some extent. I mean a 60-degree day can feel SWELTERING if you’ve been training in 25-degree weather…, but feel cool and comfortable if you’ve been running in 80-degree weather. Here’s the deal…there comes a point when the heart simply can’t pump enough blood, the lungs can’t take in enough oxygen, the body can’t sweat enough liquid to cool itself…the mercury goes above 90 and especially in high humidity (where the evaporation/cooling mechanism for the body is slowed), you have to be VERY careful…, but don’t think 90 is a magic “don’t cross” number. It could be even lower, depending on your conditioning, training, local weather, etc.

–shade. Love the shade. If your run is a trail run in nearly total shade, you can knock 10 degrees or more off the “on the city sidewalk” heat. HOWEVER, if you’re talking about a patch of shade here and there, it’s like saying to your body, “We’ll only breathe in the shade, okay?” Run isn’t going to last too long that way! : ) Be honest with yourself…you know, sometimes we do things to ourselves we would never force someone else to do!

–phone. A good precaution and handy when you have your wits about you. But what happens when you get dehydrated or have heat stroke? Disorientation, confusion, memory issues, poor muscle coordination, slow reactions, you could collapse or pass out…and it can happen before you even know it’s happening. One second you’re running, the next you’re face down on the pavement . . . and hopefully it’s pavement and not blacktop (because blacktop can get sizzling hot). The nice thing about a phone, IF someone decides to stop and help you, they can hopefully use your phone to call someone who knows you (but hopefully they first dial 9-1-1).

So, this spring and summer, have fun, but run smart and beware of BOTH kinds of burnouts!

Have an awesome run today!

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