You have registered for a race which will be held in extremely high temperatures, or you are pondering about going out for your daily runs during the hot summer days?
There is no need to quit running and exercising altogether during the summer, all you have to do is get to know how the heat and humidity affects your body and its performance, and how to stay healthy and safe while you are running in the heat.
First of all, you must be aware of the fact that the body needs much more energy to keep itself cool during or after the run or race, which means that more recovery time is needed in between training runs and races during a heat wave. Also, you need to take precautions to keep your body as cool and hydrated as possible when you are running in the hot weather, and also ensure that you are protected from the harmful sunlight when running during a hot summer day.
If you prepare yourself properly and take all necessary measures to remain safe, you shouldn’t have a problem to follow your training or racing program even in the hottest days of the year.
Here are some general guidelines to follow when running in the heat:
- Make sure you are properly hydrated at all times
Being properly hydrated is especially important when the weather is hot, because your body will be sweating more profusely and losing much more water and sodium while you are running than when you run in more favorable weather conditions. For endurance runners and races which take more than 90 minutes adding electrolyte supplement drink and sports gels is essential for your wellbeing and performance in the heat.
To be well prepared for a race on a hot day, you may need to train yourself to intake more water and liquids than usual. Start drinking more water and sports drinks than you normally do as you are preparing for a race in the hot summer.
To be safe, drink about 250ml of water or electrolyte sports drink two hours before a run or a race, and drink another 150ml right before you start. During the run or race, take a few sips of water every several minutes. If you feel that your stomach is full, then you may want to wait for another 10-15 minute before your next drink. It is recommended that you bring your own water and electrolyte supplement drinks for a race in the heat rather than relying on the water stations set up by the organizers of the race. Consume sports gels every 45 minutes to help rebuild the lost minerals, nutrients and water in your body.
Before the race or run you should weigh yourself, and then step on the scales after the race to see how much water weight you have lost. You will need to drink enough liquids to restore the lost water and sodium and thus the balance in your body for proper recovery.
Remember that your body will use much more energy to cool itself down after a race in scorching temperatures, so give yourself more recovery time for that in order to ensure you perform well on your net run and so that you stay healthy and injury free.
It is also recommended that you periodically pour water over your head during a race or run in the heat. This is a way more efficient way for removing the heat calories from the body that drinking the same amount of water.
Combine pouring water on yourself and drinking it during the run or race and you can feel sure about staying properly hydrated even in the hottest days.
- Choose a route with predominant shade
If you can, choose a parallel route to the one you are accustomed to, if it provides more shade. You can also limit your run to a smaller but shady loop, so that you don’t have to run directly under the scorching sun. Of course, when you are at a race, you will not have that choice, but when you can -go for the shade.
- Dress accordingly
Wear a vest, shorts or running clothes which are made of breathable and moisture wicking microfiber textiles or other materials which will not get soaked by your sweat and which will not hold in the heat. Also, wear a cap and shades with UV protection. The choice of good socks and proper running shoes such as these for heel pain, is also crucial if you want your feet to remain dry, comfortable, blister free and safe during your run, so go for the ultra-thin socks and light and breathable running shoes.
- Get acclimatized for a hot race
Experienced runners ensure that they are properly prepared for running in high temperatures by training in sauna suits, tracksuits, long sleeves and pants as well as adding time spent in the sauna as a method for acclimatization. It is recommended that you start off with only a few minutes in the sauna a day and increase the time gradually, so that you get acclimatized safely.
- Wear sunblock
Apart from taking measures to prevent the danger of suffering from a heat stroke, you need to take precautions against sunburn and the negative effect of the UV sunlight, which is why you should use high quality sunblock to stay protected during a run in the sun. Some runners prefer to run with long sleeves and pants for added protection.
- Run in the cooler hours
If you have a choice, go out for your daily run before dawn or late in the evening when the sun is down. The air will be fresher and the temperatures will be cooler during the darker hours of the day. Plus, you will protect yourself from the direct sunlight while practicing.
- Slow down and set a proper pace
Remember than the body requires a lot more energy and you need to put a lot more effort in keeping up with your pace once the heat strikes the body and your core temperature rises. The blood flow gets directed to the skin where the water is evaporating or perspiring, which automatically means that the muscles get lesser blood and oxygen supply necessary to keep them working at full power. When the temperatures rise during a run or a race, you may need to slow down your pace accordingly in order to ensure that you will complete the run safely and without injury or damage to your health and body.
No matter how experienced a runner you are – never underestimate the weather conditions, and especially the extremely hot and humid ones. Heat stroke can lead to serious and even fatal consequences which is why you need to take all the necessary precautions to stay properly hydrated, protected and healthy during your run or race in the heat. Follow these guidelines and don’t ruin your running and racing experience in the summer because of health problems arising from the heat!
- Nathan B. Morris, Ollie Jay To drink or to pour: How should athletes use water to cool themselves?
- Scoon GS1 et all, Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport