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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Dehydration and Cycling

By Pico Triano

Worried about getting run over by a truck? Flattened by an out of control recreational vehicle? Yes, cycling safety is an important issue but it involves more than other vehicles or crashes. In the hot days of summer dehydration is a real danger and because it can sneak up on a rider, it’s important to know the symptoms and take appropriate measures to protect yourself.

If you are cycling and you experience any of the following symptoms, you may well already be in trouble, depending on the severity.

1)      Increased thirst
2)      Dry mouth and swollen tongue
3)      Weakness
4)      Dizziness
5)      Palpitations (feeling that the heart is jumping or pounding)
6)      Confusion
7)      Sluggishness
8)      Fainting
9)      Inability to sweat
10)    Decreased urine output

If you are starting to have symptoms, stop riding and get some fluids into your body. Most important is to drink water. Sports beverages are useful in that they also provide electrolytes and other minerals that you might need. If unaddressed any of these symptoms can quickly lead to more serious problems including death.

It is better to avoid becoming dehydrated, than to try and deal with it in progress. That means drinking before, during and after riding especially in hot dry weather.

While riding you will not notice how much you are sweating because it evaporates in the wind. The amount you are sweating when you stop will give you an idea how much water you are losing. It is substantial and fast. In my experience there are two other symptoms that can show up long before dehydration is a problem. I monitor these warning signs whenever I am riding.

What colour is your urine? I’m not joking. If it is dark, you better starting drinking more water. Ideally you should have to urinate periodically. If you ride all day without having to go, you are making a mistake and on a hot dry day it could catch up with you. When you go, your urine should be clear and pale in colour. This is one of the best ways to keep yourself out of trouble.

As a group cycling leader, I do monitor something in the groups I lead, especially when the group includes young adults and children. For lack of a better term I call it the group level of irritability. I monitor the morale of the group. Any perceptible change for the worse will lead me to tell the group to take a breather and have something to drink. I’ve suffered minor dehydration on the road myself and that was one of the first signs that something wasn’t quite right. I’m very laid back. When minor things start irritating me, it’s time for me to drink some water.

Don’t be afraid to take a siesta in the hot weather. The concept of siesta didn’t come about because people are lazy. In some parts of the world, it is a necessity.

Some of the information provided was drawn from the WebMD and my own experience. Your safety is your responsibility. The purpose of this article is to make you more aware of the danger of dehydration. If you ride in hot dry conditions, I strongly recommend you study the subject further. Cold hard experience is an unforgiving teacher. Have a safe a enjoyable cycling summer.

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