When participating in any summertime sport, it is extremely important to maintain proper fluid levels. It's not the heat of the summer that is the enemy, but rather the inability to acclimate our bodies to the heat and hot sun.

I can remember (even in the month of April last year) running a road race at Compo Beach, which was sponsored by the Young Woman's League, where the temperatures were in the upper 70s with a strong hot sun. There was no way for us to acclimate our bodies to this extreme, sudden change in heat so early in the season. So what does one do? Personally, I ran the race holding a water bottle,while others ended up walking to the finish line.

Some research indicates that you should drink 50 percent more than it takes to satisfy your thirst. Since most of our body's weight is water, it's still one of the best fluid replacements. If you don't drink enough, your heart and the rest of your body will not get enough blood and oxygen. At least one hour prior to your exercise workout you should drink 8-10 ounces of water and continue to drink the same if you plan to exercise for more than an hour. Then continue to drink every 20 to 30 minutes with ongoing exercise.

In the summer months, acclimate yourself to the heat by gradually increasing your time outdoors from day to day. Wear a hat and light weight, loose-fitting clothing, take frequent cool showers or baths and stay in air conditioning as often as possible to help lower the body temperature. If you feel uncomfortable, put a wet towel on your body, look for a cooler location and get out of the sun. It is most important to keep in mind that an estimated 1,000 Americans die each year from heat related illnesses that could be prevented by controlling your body temperature.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a sport podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 & 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials. Weiss is a Fairfield-native and has a practice in Darien, The Foot & Ankle Institute of Darien, For more information visit www.therunningdoctor.net.