Running in the heat
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
Running in hot weather will impact your performance; your body will be working harder to maintain it's core temperature and to cool you down. So I'll start this summary of running in the heat by saying slow down! Your run will have the same training effect at a slightly slower pace, but the same perceived effort. Listen to your body and make sure you slow when it asks you to and that you look after it.
Some of the ways you can look after your body in the heat are covered here;
Hydration! Take on board water throughout the day; before, during and after a run. Drink to thirst, it's a very good mechanism for telling us when we need to drink. Your pee should be straw coloured, any darker and you are getting dehydrated. Even mild dehydration impacts performance, so keep an eye on things. One way to work out how much you need to be drinking weight yourself before and after a run, in the same clothes and no loo visits, any drop in weight (in grams) will be your water loos (in ml). So if you've lost 250g in weight you should have drunk 250ml of water.
Water is the simplest and best way of hydrating, but if you sweat a lot (on a longer run for example) you may notice a salty crustyness on your skin - you are losing salts too. You can replace these with sports hydration products (like Nuun), salt tablets or plain old re hydration salts from the pharmacy. Again you can drink these before, during or after a run.
This saltiness on your skin, as well as your feet swelling up in the heat can lead to more problems with chafing on hot days, so vaseline or a similar to lubricate those problem areas can be a godsend!
- I find that a lighter coloured running top makes a huge difference, it reflects as opposed to absorbing the heat
- It almost goes without saying that technical wicking materials, instead of cotton, will be a lot more comfortable when you sweat more
- Something that covers your shoulders (a tshirt as opposed to a vest) can protect the easily burnt skin on the tops of the shoulders
- A cap is great to keep the sun off your head, both keeping you cool and stopping that irritating "hair parting sunburn"!
- Don't forget the parts of your body that face upwards to the sun; tops of shoulders, top of head and (when you run more so than the rest of the time) the forearms and insides of the elbows!
- Minimum of factor 30 suncream is recommended to reduce skin cancer risk
- A good quality pair of sunglasses are a must on sunny days as the sun can damage your eyes as well as your skin
- Look for glasses that protect you from 99-100% of UVA and UVB, and also wrap around your face so you don't get light coming in from the sides to dazzle you
Early mornings are the best time to run, if you can, in the cooler air. As you'll wake up slightly dehydrated drink some water before you head out.
Some other tips;
- parks and trails are cooler than roads - as tarmac and buildings absorb and re-radiate heat
- running by water is very cooling!
- pick a route with plenty of shade or run early or late when the sun is lower and shadows longer
- A wet/damp buff can be lovely around the neck or wrists to keep cool
Your heart rate is a useful indicator of how your body is doing in the heat. Is your resting heart rate higher than usual? Is your heart rate whilst running higher than usual? This means your body is working harder and/or that you may be dehydrated (thicker blood is harder to pump).
Signs of more serious dehydration are lightheadedness, dizzyness, headaches, dry mouth (sometimes leading to a dry cough). These are a sign to stop, get cool and re hydrate.
Most importantly, don't forget to enjoy the marvellous sunny views!