Running in the summer is incredibly taxing on your body… it drains most of your bodies stored sugars and can get quickly dangerous if you aren’t careful. All too often we see runner’s with heat exhaustion and severe hydration because they didn’t properly “equip” themselves before their run. Because this week is about researching other opinions in the running world, here’s 8 tips to beat the heat this summer according to some of the top fitness accounts around:
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate:
This is probably the best thing you can do for yourself before a run in the heat. I don’t mean chug water before your run, but if you properly hydrate daily (see my water blog post for more information about adequate hydration) & sip on water before the run, it makes a world of difference. Runners World, one of the most popular running magazines in the world, suggests drinking 8oz of water or sports drinks every hour before the run.
For slightly longer runs (anything over 30-40 minutes), it may be a good idea to bring water with you in a water belt or a handheld water bottle. These are very affordable and can be found at most sports retail stores.
Don’t Run in the Sun
Running in the middle of the day is a recipe for disaster. Look at the weather the day before you plan to run and time out when you could get in a run at the coolest temperature possible. If you can get a run in in the morning it is the most beneficial. At times, the humidity hasn’t raised to it’s max and the sun rays aren’t as strong. If you can’t get one in in the morning, go for a late night run when the sun is setting. It likely will still be hot, but it’s better than mid day!
Additionally, it’s a good idea to plan a run that includes a lot of shade. If you have a run that typically is shady in the morning and another one thats shady in the afternoon, stick to those. They are your friend in the heat. According to ACTIVE, running in the shade can make it feel 10 to 20 degrees cooler.
Runners World even recommends running near water if you can’t get to the shade, as the air will likely feel much cooler and you can take a dip in the water after to cool yourself down!
Get in a Proper Meal
Eating food before a run is always a good idea, especially before a hot run. Your body will have fuel to run on & will be much less likely to “hit the wall” or feel symptoms of nausea.
Competitor recommends a cold meal prior to to running as it keeps your core temperature as low as possible. Common foods consumed are smoothies, grapes, cantaloupe, plums, apricots, melon, peaches, watermelon & applesauce.
It is also a good idea to “hyperload sodium” as Competitor calls it. Not only are you less likely to feel symptoms of heat exhaustion with extra sodium in your body, the added sodium also sends a trigger to the brain to drink more water to balance the sodium levels… ultimately increasing your water intake by a ton!
Competitor recommends to add 3,500-5,000mg of sodium to your diet 24 hours before your run so that your body has time to process it. Additional sodium can be taken in the form of a salt tab or high-sodium foods.
Finally, it may not be a bad idea to carry a nutrition packet with you for a mid-run boost. Energy gels such as Gu & chews such as Honey Stinger or Shot Blocks are good ones to carry around as they contain sugar, electrolytes, amino acids and some even contain caffeine.
Soak Your Clothes
ACTIVE recommends bringing ice with you on your run in putting it somewhere in your clothes. However, I think if you simply soak your shirt in cold water pre-run, it should do the job. Having a cool layer next to your stomach will keep your core cool and reduce the risk of your body overheating.
It is also suggested to wear light layers as moisture is wicked away much faster than a heavy cotton shirt that does nothing but weigh you down and keep you hot.
Finally, ACTIVE recommends loose fitting clothes (to allow breeze into parts of your body that are normally covered by clothing) that aren’t black or any other dark colors that attract sun ray’s more.
Plan to Stop Mid-Run for a Drink
If you can, try to map out routes that include at least one water stop. Often times there are water fountains found along parks, in golf courses, around schools, at a gas station or potentially even run to a friends house. This is pretty crucial if you have no access to water throughout the run, didn’t hydrate well before the run or are running more than 30 minutes. Getting even a few sips of water in decreases your chances of heat exhaustion tremendously.
Wear Proper Sun Protectants!
This is a fairly explanatory one. It’s always a good idea to wear sunscreen to keep your skin from the harmful rays. Runners World claims that wearing sunscreen will keep your body temperature cooler… just to further convince you to layer on the sunscreen.
Hats & sunglasses are also crucial during sunny days as they protect your face and eyes from the sun. Hats tend to also keep your face much cooler and your brain is less likely to perceive your body as very hot… i.e. less likely to get anxiety about your body getting too hot.
However, Runners World does recommend a visor or a hat with breathable mesh as much of your heat escapes through your head. Trapping the heat in with a cotton hat will just cause you to overheat.
Replenish your electrolytes post-run
Not only should you drink a ton of water after you run (16-24oz) to replace the water lost through excess sweat produced from the sun, but you should also replace your electrolytes that you also lost through sweat. Most commonly, electrolytes are replaced in the form of a sports drink/water such as Powerade, Gatorade, or Smart water.
Competitor breaks down exactly what hydration does for your body: heat is released in a variety of ways to self-regulate the bodies core temperature.The two major ways heat escapes is through passage through the muscles, which is then released through the skin & leaving the body through water vapor in sweat and the runner’s exhale. When you are properly hydrated, heat leaves your body much faster and your body remains cool. Therefore, when you properly re-hydrate after each run, your body is more likely to respond well the next time you run.
Know Your Limits…
Run for effort not for pace. Runs in hot weather will very likely be much slower than an average temperature day, just as runs will be slower during a blizzard in the winter. The fact is, weather impacts performance so don’t be discouraged when you aren’t seeing the times you want.
If you are working as hard as you normally do, stay on that pace… whatever it is. Pushing your body to hit a certain pace is never a good idea in the heat and can often lead you into trouble.
The moral is, don’t be stupid. Run based on how you feel. If the run isn’t going well and you are beginning to feel nauseous or have goosebumps everywhere, listen to your body. It’s probably telling you something. One slower run or a mile or two less than you wanted to run is much more worth it than riding in an ambulance due to heat exhaustion.
Stay cool out there!