Running Safe in the Sun!

avoid the heat - run at sunset
Photo credit: Aaron / Flickr

Heat injury is an often ignored or forgotten about ailment suffered by runners. It certainly doesn’t come up there with the list of injuries you first think of when talking about running (read shin splints, IT band syndrome etc!) This is especially true in the UK – the heat isn’t something we have to think about that often!

But as I write we are in the middle of a “heat wave” with high temperatures reaching the 30 degrees C in southern areas. Many of my clients are training for late summer or autumn races and finding it hard to keep up the pace as the temperatures sore.

Heat injury can range in severity from the fairly mild – heat cramps, through to the potentially fatal – heat stroke. So it is definitely something to take seriously. I’ve always struggled to run in the heat (and the cold – maybe just at all?!) so have always followed these tips to get the most out of your run and avoid the nasty effects of heat injury.

  1. Be an Early Bird or a Night Owl
    Unless you are training for an event which you know will more than likely be taking place in hot weather, avoid training in the hottest part of the day. Personally, I like to go first thing in the morning, usually between 6 & 7am when there’s no-one about other than the occasional dog walker and the heat of the sun doesn’t affect me. It’s also great knowing all day that you’ve already done your workout and have the evening to yourself! If you’re not a morning person, wait until the evening – post 7pm to get your run in. Have a small snack when you get home from work and let it settle for at least an hour and a half before you head out.
  2. Test Out Water Solutions
    Firstly, if you are running for over half an hour you should be taking water with you to keep hydrated as you run. This is true regardless of the weather, but is even more important in warm/hot conditions. In fact that window of time should come down to 15/20 minutes – so that’s most of us then! Short runs are also fine for just water, but on longer runs, over 45 minutes, either a shop bought or homemade isotonic drink will help you to replace fluids and ions (e.g. salt) faster.
    The number of people I see out running without any fluids is a little scary. Not only is dehydration going to affect your performance, but it can also make you ill. Current suggestions are that whilst exercising in the heat we should be consuming 450-800ml of fluid an hour! It’s also important to start the run hydrated. Make sure you drink steadily throughout the day, aiming to consume 2L of fluid every day!
    I have always found carrying water bottles a bit of a pain and I hate hearing and feeling the water slosh about whilst running, but it’s one of those things you need to deal with. Try out different options and see what works for you. My preferred option is to drag Mr D along with me and make him carry the bottle! But failing that, the water bottles with a hand grip through the centre and ok, or if you can’t bear that, try a bladder! (bag in a little rucksack with a straw!)
  3. Cover your Noggin
    The same applies to running as when out all day in the sun. Wear a hat. Or a bandana. Or anything which covers your head! This will stop the amount of heat absorbed by your head as the sun doesn’t shine directly on it. If your head overheats you feel pretty rubbish, pretty quick!
  4. Wear Light Clothes
    Light in colour and light in weight. Both will help you reflect heat and stay cool.
  5. Slow it Down
    You’re not going to be setting any PB’s when it’s hotter than you are used to and if you try you’ll more than likely regret it. In fact, every 5 degrees F (above 60) can slow your running by 20s a mile! Start off slow and if you feel ok halfway through, speed it up a little.
  6. Park Life
    Find a local park to run in. Areas with grass and trees are cooler than towns and cities as roads and pavements retain their heat. There’s likely to be a lot more shade in a park too, and maybe even some kind of water feature to cool down by (or in?!) after!

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