Heat exhaustion

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I went for a ride out west of town.  As soon as we left the house, I should have known it wasn’t a great idea, because the temperature had to be somewhere around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and although it was late afternoon, the sun was still fairly high in the sky.  We packed a lot of water, but I realize now that I wasn’t drinking as much as I should have been.  Not quite halfway through the 14-mile route, I began to have some issues.  On a relatively short climb up a hill that wasn’t that steep, I began to get overheated–the heat of the sun just felt magnified on my skin, and I had a hard time catching my breath.  We stopped near a large evergreen along the path and ducked behind it for some shade.

At this point I made my second mistake (the first was not drinking enough water)–my wife suggested that I pour some water over my head or soak my shirt to cool off, and I declined that suggestion, thinking I would be fine if I just rested a bit.  After I got my wind back and drank some water, we rode another mile or so, then turned around for the return trip.  I was riding slowly and a bit wobbly, because my vision had begun to get weird.  I started seeing bright splotches in my field of vision, and I began to get dizzy.  I began to think that it was altogether possible that I could just black out and fall.  I was still pretty hot, too, and my wife must have noticed this, because she stopped at a place where a couple of trees were shading the path.  I stopped, too, got off my bike and sat down, my vision still goofed up, and my head still dizzy.

I finally took the advice I had refused earlier–I poured some water on my head, soaked the front of my shirt, and drank as much as I could.  After ten or fifteen minutes in the shade I began to feel a little better, and my vision cleared up.  Soon we were back up and riding, and I made sure to drink a lot more water on the return trip.  After we got back into town we passed a bank thermometer sign that indicated it had “cooled down” to about 98 degrees–this was at 7:00 in the evening.

I should probably point out that my wife, who is almost exactly half my size, was drinking a lot more water than me, and she was doing just fine. I’m sure she could have gone another 14 miles, easily before tiring.  She’s in much better shape (she rides her bike to work almost every day, about eight or nine miles, round-trip, and she often extends the ride by several miles for extra exercise).  She’s like, Batman or something.  (And that, I believe, is the second time I have made a comic-book superhero reference to my wife during the tenure of this blog.  I’m not sure what that means.)

Lessons learned:  (1)  It might not be such a good idea to go riding during the hottest part of the day, especially for someone like me, who is still quite overweight and not in tip-top physical condition.  (2) Drink plenty of water, more than you need to quench your thirst, while you’re riding.  (3) Do whatever it takes to keep as cool as you can–douse yourself with water, take rest stops in the shade, etc.  Heat exhaustion is not fun, and if you don’t treat it properly, it can lead to heat stroke, which can be very, very serious–even fatal.  And that can ruin your whole day.

By the way–my weight is down to about 260 pounds, and my latest blood tests indicate that my total cholesterol number is down from 201 to 80.  My vitamin D deficiency has been corrected, as well.  After nearly three months, I’m still sticking with my “new lifestyle”–I don’t call it a “diet”–and I’m beginning to notice new habits forming.  When I’m hungry for a snack, I don’t immediately think of chips or sweets; I’m beginning to think of fruit or carrots instead.  How weird is that for a guy who probably consumed his own weight in french fries every year for the last twenty years?

Seriously, I give credit to God for this turn-around.  I am not this self-controlled on my own.

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