Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Staying Well-hydrated During the Heat Wave

I love it. I'm thrilled. People are getting the message about the importance of drinking plenty of water during the hot summer days. (Of course, drinking adequate water is important all year, but we're generally more likely to get into trouble from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke during the summer.)

When I ran cross-country during my freshman year of high school, our coaches (Mike Martorano and Doug Berger) always encouraged us runners to be sure to drink enough water. They even gave us specific recommendations for how much to drink, even though we might not feel thirsty. That's really important because, apparently, the human thirst mechanism doesn't normally kick in until after some dehydration has occurred, so our brains won't tell us to replenish ourselves with water until after we have already lost a significant amount of it.

Throughout my years of participation in fitness and sports, consuming adequate water--or staying hydrated, as it's often put--has been one of the constants. When I trained at Chicago's famous Windy City Boxing Gym (a classic gym if there ever was one) during the hot summer days, we boxers drank water from a garden hose. It was all part of the charm of the place. A few years later, when I worked with personal fitness trainer Matt Steinberg, he always encouraged me to drink water between sets of weight lifting. I even had a former boxing coach (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) who had some very strange ideas about water; he yelled at me sometimes for drinking "too much" water. Yeah, I know, go figure.

In any event, I'm happy that the public at large seems to be getting the message about the importance of adequate water consumption. Of course, some people don't need that message since they have already internalized it. For example, take my dad. He fondly tells me of his days in the United States Marine Corps Reserves when his unit did various exercises out in the desert. Drinking water was not just recommended, it was an order! Apparently, the Marines could not afford to lose a few good men to dehydration, so adequate water intake was mandated. These days, Dad applies that knowledge in civilian life. Since he's my mom's full-time caregiver, he uses a bottle to measure how much water Mom drinks daily to ensure she is drinking enough.

Additionally, I was pleased yesterday when talking to my great-aunt Estelle. She is 94 years old and I sometimes check in on her to make sure she is doing alright, and Monday was one of those times. We had a nice, albeit fairly short, visit. We discussed the importance of staying cool and of consuming lots of water. I verified that she was drinking a lot of water and Aunt Estelle assured me, "Oh yes, I drink a lot of water all year." Cool. Mission accomplished.

One other member of my family deserves mention. My brother, jock that he is, also appreciates the importance of staying well-hydrated. When he's not busy doing triathlons, he's swimming, walking, or practicing karate. In all of those events, he makes sure to drink plenty of good old H2O.

Even with all this background in my family and general knowledge about drinking enough water, I don't like to complacent about the issue. Reading this article, "Stay hydrated to beat heat," in Monday's USA Today reminded me of the importance of water and of consuming enough of it to stay cool and in good health.

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