Summer is finally here! After months of freezing cold followed by yo-yo-ing temperatures, warmth is among us. We can actually put something on in the morning and leave it without changing our outfit 5 times based on the season it decides to be throughout the day. I mean, how annoying is that? Surely I’m not the only one who is just overall happier when the weather is better.
I get it! We all want to make the most of these gloriously sunny days. Very little beats the sunshine upon your skin with a cool breeze blowing. The rising temperatures also mean taking extra precautions when going outside for your run (or any outdoor activity). Maybe you are questioning if you really want to go out at all.
DANGERS OF RUNNING IN SUMMER HEAT
Some of the potential dangers of running in the heat and humidity are:
- Heat Exhaustion – Symptoms include headache, nausea, dehydration, and a core body temperature of up to 104 degrees. If you have these symptoms, seek air conditioning and a cold drink.
- Heat Cramps- These are muscle spasms that are not serious but are a sign that you need to replenish electrolytes and consume water. Try to consume a sports drink or a banana.
- Excessive Dehydration- This can be avoided by making sure you are adequately hydrated before your run even starts. You man have symptoms of disorientation, dizziness, and fatigue if you are excessively dehydrated.
- Heat Stroke- This is a hazardous condition where your body temperature reaches 105 degrees or more. Symptoms are confusion, lack of sweating, poor balance, disorientation, rapid pulse, vomiting, and poor balance. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
This is not to scare you off from taking your run outdoors. The heat doesn’t mean you have to skip your run altogether. In fact, running in warmer weather can be beneficial. To best prepare for your summer run, here are 9 tips to make your workout both safer and more effective.
1. START SLOW
Increase your workout time and intensity gradually over several days or even weeks. Let your body adjust to the heat. Don’t go all out in an intense training session during those first sweltering days. Most importantly, listen to your body. If you feel you need to slow down or stop, don’t push yourself. Chances are, your pace already will be slower when it is hot and humid outside. Taking it easy is better than passing out.
2. OPT FOR MORNING OR EVENING
Mid-day is known to be the hottest part of the day. Not only are the temperatures at their peak, but it can also be more difficult to breathe due to higher ozone in the environment. Choose to do your workout in the morning or the evening when it is cooler outside if your schedule allows for it. If morning or evening are not options, and mid-day is just too hot, consider doing your run on a treadmill if you have access to one. Keep in mind that it is best to skip your outdoor run if the outside temperature is higher than 98 degrees and the humidity is more than 70-80%. Remember, your safety is most important.
Dehydration can be a real threat if you are not adequately prepared. Get into the habit of staying hydrated throughout the day and plan for being outside on the hotter days. If you are going to be out running for more than an hour, take a water bottle with you. A good rule of thumb is to consume no less than half your body weight in ounces of water every day. On days that you will be sweating a lot, you should increase this amount. Hydrating properly not only before but also during your workout will help make your performance the best it can be. Some general guidelines for pre-run hydration are:
15-20 ounces 1-2 hours before your run
8-10 ounces 15-20 minutes before your run
8-10 ounces for every 15 minutes during your run
You can also pour water over your body as well. This can help to keep your core body temperature down as you face the hot outdoors.
4. CONSUME ELECTROLYTES
While on the subject of hydrating, also be sure to consume electrolytes. If you are sweating a lot and drinking a lot of water from running in the summer heat, replenishing electrolytes is especially important. Electrolyte depletion can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, and a decrease in performance. You can replenish electrolytes in both tablet or drink form.
5. DON’T PUSH TOO HARD
The heat and humidity of the summer is not the time to show off and try to break records. Dizziness, headaches, thirst, and muscle cramping are signs that you need to stop and seek out shade and/or shelter. When the outside temperature is sweltering, your body will take longer to recover. If you can find an alternative to your outdoor run, choose those instead. Biking and water sports are some excellent substitutes. There is no shame in taking a rest day either if you feel your body needs it.
6. WEAR SUNSCREEN
Due to sweating, find a good waterproof sunscreen to protect your skin. Cover all areas that will be out in the open. Don’t forget the easy to miss place such as the ears, nose, and back of your neck. What sunscreen you choose will depend on your own personal skin type, SPF needs, and how long you will be outside based on time of day.
7. WEAR COOLER CLOTHING
Moisture-wicking clothing is an excellent choice for time spent running in the summer heat. What you wear should be loose-fitting to avoid heat from building up. Pick lighter colored clothing over dark as they will reflect the sunlight. To protect your head and eyes, wear a cap and sunglasses. Avoid cotton if at all possible, as cotton tends to lock in heat and does not dry quickly.
8. FIND A TRAIL
Concrete and asphalt absorb heat and radiate back into your body. If you have trails nearby, the summer is a great time to try out trail running. You will be naturally shaded, giving you a break from the intense rays of the sun. Plus, you will tend to slow your pace slightly on a trail, which will keep you cooler and your heartrate slower on its own.
9. COOL DOWN GRADUALLY
When you are finished with your run, you may be tempted to jump right into the shower. Instead, drink some fluids and give your body a chance to cool down naturally and for your heart rate to slow back down. If you had a long run, perhaps have a high-carbohydrate drink to help replace some of the energy lost.
As you can see, the summer months doesn’t have to mean halting your running schedule. It also doesn’t have to be miserable or feel like a burden. With some planning and knowledge, there’s no reason why you can’t get out there and keep up with your training. Stay safe, have fun, and don’t forget your water bottle!