Running is one sport that can normally be done all year round. However, during hot weather, there are certain things you need to know in order to stay safe and healthy while you run. There are not a lot of excuses for avoiding your running program. You can usually adapt your program so you can run comfortably even when it is hot outdoors. There are some considerations, so let’s take a look:
- Choose a cool time of day – Some people are morning people and others like the afternoon or evening. When it’s hot season, the mornings are usually cooler, so even if you are not an early bird, you may need to adjust your schedule to get your run in before the heat settles in. If you prefer to run in the evening, you may have to adjust your time and run later, after the sun has set.
- Choose your coolest clothing – Black is a slimming color often chosen by people trying to look their best; however, black also absorbs heat. When you can’t avoid the sun, you want to be wearing lighter color clothing. Choose fabrics that breathe or blends that are designed to wick the sweat away from your body. This also prevents chafing from friction and heat combined.
- Wear sunscreen – An hour run in the sun, whether it’s hot or not, can leave your sun burned and damaged. Avoid long term problems with sun exposure as well as the immediate problem of pink, sensitive skin rubbing against your clothing by applying liberal amounts of proper sunscreen products.
- Drink plenty of fluids – When you sweat you lose lots of fluid and electrolytes. Before you run, make sure you have plenty of fluids on board to avoid dehydration and an all-around uncomfortable run. Invest in drinks that are specifically designed for runners with essential nutrients intended to keep fluid levels properly balanced with electrolytes, minerals, and vitamins. Alternate these drinks with water, or prepare a half-and-half mix with water.
- Choose shade – In hot weather, look for shaded routes. Trees and green areas can help you conserve your energy and sweat a little less. Avoid concrete and blacktop as much as possible.
Dangers of Exposure to Heat
It is never good to be out too long in the heat. If the temperature is in the 80s or 90s, your body is going to feel stressed. You will need to modify your run to avoid dangerous conditions during hot days, even curtailing your activity until cooler weather prevails, or taking your activity into air conditioned comfort. Let’s look at some of the problems that can occur if running during hot weather:
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can be the results of hyperthermia, an elevated core body temperature. This rise in the core temperature occurs due to the body’s failure to regulate the temperature when exposed to excessive heat. Simply put, hyperthermia occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. Normal sweat isn’t dissipating the heat and the body temperature begins to elevate.
Heat exhaustion is what many people call the beginning stages of hyperthermia. To begin, you may not even feel particularly hot except what would be considered normal for someone running a couple of miles in the heat. But, when you come inside out of the heat, you can feel your temperature climbing. Some indications for early signs of heat exhaustion are hot, dry skin, skin that is red and blotchy, or skin that is pale and clammy.
If the body is unable to cool down, symptoms may become more serious, even leading to heat stroke. These symptoms may include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, and low blood pressure, which may lead to fainting.
In severe cases, hyperthermia may lead to heat stroke which is characterized by confused behavior, even hostile behavior, sometimes described as “drunken” behavior. The heart rate and breathing will escalate as the blood pressure drops. The skin may appear pale at this point, even blue in color. Medical attention is needed immediately at the first signs of hyperthermia.
When you sweat, you also lose electrolytes like potassium and sodium. When the sweat dries on your face and it leaves a white film, that’s salt. When you lose salt, it has to be replenished to keep your body, especially your muscles, working properly. If not, you can get muscle cramps in your stomach and your legs. Because you have lost so much fluid, you may also be weak and dizzy. These cramps usually happen after you have stopped exercising and not as you are still moving.
Keeping hydrated is important, but it’s also important how you replace the electrolytes that you sweat out as you hydrate. Proper drinks with balanced electrolytes should be on every runner’s “must have” list when they head out in the heat.
If you are running in the heat, stay protected using these tips. Avoiding the heat may be your best option if you want to return to running after the heat spell is over. However, a few sensible precautions can get you out there running even if the thermometer is climbing. Pay attention to your body and enjoy the run!