Summer, a time for barbecues, beaches, and bonfires. It ushers in the hottest seasonal temps and draws communities outdoors for recreation and leisure alike. When it comes to running, the summer sun can significantly impact upon your training. Be mindful of the heat, and the damaging U.V. rays. As things heat up, performance slows down. Once the body reaches 102 degrees, it can no longer cool itself and is forced to conduct blood to the skin to reduce temperatures. Ultimately, this decreases the amount available for hard working muscles and efficiency suffers.
Heat impacts each and every runner on a physiological level. For example, as heart rate increases, the body becomes more dehydrated and blood flow to your legs is reduced. On average, for every 10-degree increase in temperature above 55 degrees, a marathon time will increase 1.5-3%. This translates to an extra 3-6 minutes for a 3:30 marathoner!
Your body usually needs a full 2 week acclimation period to become adjusted to running in the heat; be patient with the process. Do not feel demoralized by having to slow your pace way down; it’s normal and actually a lot safer for your health.
Try some of the tips below for running in hot weather.
Run Early: the coolest time of day is in the early morning. Plus, it will provide a good-mood boost!
Up your water intake: Aim to drink at least 8 oz of water every hour and more if you will be outside more than usual. It will help improve the body’s cooling mechanisms and you will feel much better.
Acclimate Slowly: for the first 2 weeks, just do a few easy run sessions; skip the speed outdoors. After about 10-14 days your body will be fully acclimated to the heat, then start adding in an outdoor speed session.
Wear Light-Colored, Loose-fitted clothing: The light color will reflect the sun’s rays much more efficiently. Loose clothing will help you soak up any breeze that comes your way allowing your body to cool down easier.
Sunscreen: To protect your skin from harmful rays that cause skin cancer. Also, you can decrease your skin and body temperature allowing you to stay cooler longer
Run near water: Running by water is usually breezier which will help you stay cool
Plan a route with water fountains: This will ensure you do not suffer when dehydration hits. You can also carry a water body with you on your run.
Know the signs of heat illness (it is a real thing): headache or heat buildup around the brain, confusion, loss of muscle control, clammy skin, over sweating, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms, STOP right away, find shade, hydrate, take a break, and if you can, hail for a ride home.
Lower your expectations: our bodies are amazing machines, but like all machines, they can overheat! We must listen to both in order to progress and avoid damage. You will not be able to run as fast in the heat as you can in cooler temperatures; do not let that bring you down and destroy your confidence. This is normal for EVERYBODY!
Running in the summer is a whole new beast to conquer. It is impossible to avoid slowed efficiency and it has nothing to do with lack of fitness. It is just the reality of our physiological system and how it works! With the tips above, you will be able to beat the heat, safely!