Take it from me--stay hydrated during summer heat

Motorcyclists take a morale ride around base at the end of the Motorcycle Safety Day at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., April 14, 2011. The day helped bring riders together to show off their motorcycles and get to know one another while letting everyone ride together in the end.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tristin English)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tristin English)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Hydrate. It's a word that was constantly pounded into my head during basic training. If the training instructor didn't see us hydrating enough he would have us stop whatever we were doing to drink water.

I never really understood how important it was to hydrate. I always knew water was important for my body and it was important for us to drink, but I didn't fully understand it until the day I was taking my motorcycle course.

I showed up early like I always do and parked my bike. Since I was the first one there, I took off my helmet and sat on the bench, waiting for someone else to show up. When the instructor and the rest of the classmates showed up, we started the day by talking about the bikes and safety gear. Then someone showed up with water and equipment for the course.

The instructor started the next part by talking about each course before we had to run through it on our motorcycles. The courses started out easy enough, but soon, the sun moved itself higher into the sky and before long I felt like I was in an oven. After every time I completed a course, I got back in line to wait for my next turn and could feel the sweat on my back--it was the only thing I felt beside the heat.

During every break I sat down and filled my cup with water. During one break, I took off my helmet and sat down a little out of breath, but I just kept on drinking that water.

As the day dragged on, my clothes starting to stick to me, my face was covered in sweat and the inside of my helmet felt cold every time I put it on from the excessive sweat.

Finally, it was time to take on the last course. I waited in line and something didn't feel right. After a few runs I knew what it was. I was dehydrated, and the sun was getting to me. I reached up to my helmet while waiting for my turn and started tugging on the chin strap trying to let more air in. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, and I could just feel my pulse beating through my whole body. I kept my eyes on the instructor and started to get a little agitated, I wanted off my bike, I wanted water and to get out of the heat, but I'm a stubborn person who doesn't want to be the one to stop everything.

I kept going; pushing myself like I always do. It got to the point where I felt like I was going to pass out waiting for my turn. It was easy to tell the heat was getting to me--I couldn't concentrate and after every go it seemed I was doing a little worse than the time before.

During the final stretch, I was done.

I went to park my bike and did my best to get my gear off quickly. I made my way to the table and started drinking more water. It didn't really seem to help, but I knew I needed it.

After the instructor released us, I went home, changed into some more breathable clothes, sat on my floor and drank water. It didn't take long for the headache to start, I tried eating something, but afterward I just felt sick.

I kept forcing myself to drink water before trying to sleep it off. I took a few naps then just ended up going to bed.

The next morning it felt like a truck hit me. My head was still hurting, my whole body felt weak, and I could barely stand, so I made the decision to have someone take me to the emergency room. After walking inside and explaining what was going on, I was eventually taken to a room, where a nurse hooked up an IV to me. Blood work was taken, along with an X-ray and an EKG to check my heart. Everything came back fine. The first liter of water was given to me and after that was done they hooked up a second liter to me. I couldn't get released until my headache was gone.

I thought I was drinking enough water throughout the whole day, but with the motorcycle gear it didn't seem like that was the case. With as much as I was sweating and out in the heat, I should have drank more water.

It's hot out there so make sure to keep yourself hydrated no matter what you are doing, and if you feel like you're over-heating, take a break. Don't keep trying to push on and have the possibility of ending up in the E.R. because of dehydration.