As we dive deeper into summer, the temperatures continue to rise and it can make running through a little more difficult. Heat and humidity can make summer your least favourite season for outdoor exercise, but with longer days and less rain, there is a lot to love.
Here are some quick tips for running effectively and safely in the heat:
1. Run by effort, not pace:
Running in the heat is the perfect opportunity to work on running by feel. Instead of strictly following pace targets that you might normally follow, run by time and effort rather than distance and pace. The heat can take a lot more out of you, fatigue you faster and dehydrate you more significantly. This is why it is crucial to listen your body and stop when you feel it is time to stop. As a general rule, start your workout slower than you usually do. If you’re feeling good halfway through, it’s okay to speed up a little.
2. Run early or later.
There’s no perfect time to run in the heat of summer. Early morning hours offer the lowest temperatures and a break from the strongest hours of sunlight. Running in the evening means less stronger sun rays but the humidity from the day can linger. Try to avoid running right in the middle of the day but if you can’t, wear protection: sunscreen and hat, and carry plenty of water.
3. Get off the roads!
Asphalt and concrete absorb heat and radiate it back to your already fatigued body. The summer months are a good time to try trail running as offers more shade from trees to keep you out of the direct sun. Your pace on trails might also slow down so you won’t be going quiet as fast. (However, you might be climbing up a lot more!) Just another excuse to try and get people to give trail running a try 😉
4.Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Heat can slow you down and make it harder to maintain the same effort you normally would like to. Go easy on yourself when you feel you need to take it easy on a particularly hot day.
5.Don’t wear dark colors or cotton. Gear matters in all conditions so dress appropriately! Please avoid cotton as it absorbs moisture and becomes heavy. Light weight and coloured fabrics are they best for staying cool and dry. There is also gear with UPF protection now which is an awesome added bonus. In the heat, less is best. Pick loose, light clothing, but apply sun-screen on any exposed skin.
6. Start your run hydrated (and keep hydrating).
It is important to hydrate well before and after your run. Unless you’re running more than 30-45 minutes you probably don’t need to take any water with you but everyone is different. In hotter conditions it may be a good idea to bring a hand held just in case you start to feel dehydrated. We also know that in the heat, water is not enough to maintain hydration. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, and in the heat we sweat more. It is imperative to replace those electrolytes to prevent anything from muscle cramping, dizziness to even cardiac dysrhythmias. Use electrolyte tabs in water or pills, especially on longer runs.
Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30 or higher, especially on exposed areas. There are companies that make sport sunscreen that is lighter weight, and spray sunscreen is awesome too. Also wear a hat or visors to protect your face and head since this is generally your most exposed area.
Running in the Heat Has Its Advantages!
With all the whining we do about summer training, it actually makes you a better runner. Running in the heat causes our body to acclimatize to the conditions and adapt:
•Your body gets better at sending blood from your core to your skin, helping to dissipate heat
•With all that blood rushing to your skin, your muscles now get less oxygenated blood. So to compensate, your body produces more hemoglobin (Your oxygen carry blood cells).
•The body learns to control its core temperature and it won’t increase as much after you’ve acclimatized
•You start sweating sooner at a lower body temperature to improve the cooling process
•You can better learn to adjust your hydration. You’ll be sweating more, thus needing more water and electrolytes. Finding what works for you will only make you a better runner.
All these adaptations improve your efficiency and make you ready to run even faster as soon as the heat and humidity drop in the fall. So embrace the heat and run through it! You might just surprise yourself at what you’re able to run in a few months!