Stay Cool, Stay Safe: Tips for Running in Hot WeatherJuly 9th, 2011
The summer is really heating up and while the sunshine is great, the temperatures can be brutal out there. Heat exhaustion can take hold quickly and may eventually lead to heat stroke if the proper precautions are not taken. If you plan on running outside during the hottest days of summer, the following tips are designed to help you prepare to do so safely.
Factors such as temperature, humidity, terrain, pace, and elevation all play a role in determining the safest route and hydration plan for any run. Keep in mind that if the humidity level is over 50% and the temperature is over 65degrees the body will begin to be directly affected by the outdoor heat. With that said, when temperatures start creeping into the high 80’s or 90’s, especially in a humid climate, these effects can become incredibly severe. Therefore, determining key details about your climate is a crucial first step in planning ahead for running during the “dog-days” of summer.
When it comes time to plan out a route, picking areas with mild inclines and lots of shade will help to curb some of the adverse effects of high heat. Also, slowing down your pace on extremely hot days will help prevent the onset of dehydration. Finally, be sure to try and exercise before 10:00am or after 4:00pm. Between 10:00am and 4:00pm the sun is at its greatest intensity and temperatures will be the highest. Many runners prefer to run in the early AM just before the sun rises. This not only provides less congested routes, but significantly reduces the risk factors involved with running during the hottest hours of a summer’s day.
Heat exhaustion is almost always caused by dehydration; therefore, staying hydrated while running on a hot summer day is absolutely necessary. It is vital to drink lots of water before, during, and after any exercise routine regardless of temperature, but hydration becomes even more important as temperature increases. Lots of runners will wait until they feel “thirsty” and use this as their gauge for when to drink. This method works for some, but on a hot summer’s day it is safer to routinely drink water instead of waiting. By the time many runners feel thirsty, heat exhaustion may have already set in. The human body is not able to replenish its liquids as quickly as it sweats them out during intense, prolonged exercise; therefore, drinking lots of water is the only sure fire way to keep dehydration at bay. For runs that will last longer than 30minutes it is often a good idea to include at least one sports drink amidst the water intake. Sports drinks contain electrolytes which will replenish your body’s supply of necessary salts and minerals.
Staying cool is just as important as staying hydrated. Routinely splashing water over your head, face, neck, and shoulders will help cool you off initially and also provide a lasting effect as the water evaporates away from the skin. Also, drinking cold water offers a few nice benefits. Cold water will leave the stomach faster; provide a small physical cooling effect, and a large psychological cooling effect.
When the summer heat peaks choosing the right clothing for running is very important. Be sure to avoid cotton materials as cotton absorbs sweat instead of wicking it away from the skin like synthetic materials. The skin needs to have fresh air in order for sweat to evaporate; therefore, choosing clothing that is breathable becomes very important. Clothing should also be loose fitting so that the skin and muscles are not constricted. In order to prevent severe sun burns be sure to wear sunscreen that is SPF 20 or greater and has broad spectrum protection. Additionally a pair of sun-glasses will keep the sun out of the eyes and help protect against pollen and other outdoor allergens entering the eyes.
The final tip we have to offer is awareness. Be sure to read up on the adverse effects of dehydration, heat-exhaustion, and heat stroke. These are very serious illnesses and can set in quickly when the temperatures sky-rocket during intense summer days. Keep lots of water on-hand and monitor your body’s changes. If you start to feel overly exhausted, dizzy, or short of breath slow down the pace or stop and seek help. Always keep in mind the time of day, temperature, humidity level, and the route you are on in order to stay prepared and prevent illness. With that said it is time to get out there and start running!