Larry is an avid runner training for his first marathon, which is coming up in September. Unfortunately, he is having some difficulty with his training. The weather is just too hot where he lives, making it hard to run. Lately, the temperatures have been over 100 F (38 C). Despite that, Larry needs to train for his upcoming race. The problem is that his body is not taking the hot weather well. Whenever he runs in the heat, he runs slower than he is used to and does not feel well. He just does not know how to cope with running in hot weather.
Larry’s challenge is common. Most runners don’t run their best on hot days. But luckily there are ways to prepare for hot weather runs, so that you run faster and feel better during them. That is important because running in hot weather can put you at risk for heat disorders, such as dehydration and heat stroke. So, it is very important to take precautions before running.
How should I prepare for running in the heat?
Here are 5 things that you should consider before running in hot weather.
- Schedule runs to avoid the heat: Avoid running between 10am and 4pm, when the sun is most intense. The best time to run is in the early morning, especially right before sunrise, when the temperature is at its coolest. If running in the morning is not possible, then after sunset is the next best thing. However, in some places, that might not be a good option because the temperatures might not cool down enough until quite late at night.
- Stay Hydrated: It is important to stay hydrated to avoid heat disorders. Dehydration can cause fatigue and muscle cramping. So, drink fluids prior to, during and after your run. You should drink before you feel thirsty or your mouth becomes dry. By then you are already at least slightly dehydrated. If you plan on going for a run longer than 30 minutes in hot weather, part of your fluid intake should be a sports drink in order to replenish some of your lost electrolytes, such as sodium and minerals.
- Wear appropriate clothing: Wear loose fitting, light colored clothing and avoid tight-fitting, dark colored cotton that absorbs the sun’s light and does not allow heat to escape. Specialized running clothes that wick moisture away from your skin are best because they help to cool you when running. These specialty clothes are more expensive, but they are well worth it on hot days. If you need to save money, wait for a sale.
- Protect yourself from the sun: Wear a hat, a pair of sunglasses and apply a waterproof sunscreen. The sunscreen should be at least SPF 15, and both the sunscreen and sunglasses should protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Pour water over your head and body: If you are overheating, a good way to cool down is pouring water over your head and body. The water helps you to dissipate heat faster. (Don’t do this with your sports drink. You’ll get all sticky.)
Sometimes, these precautions aren’t enough to overcome the heat. If you experience nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, confusion, difficulty breathing, headaches, muscle cramps and/or dizziness, either slow down or stop running depending on the severity of the symptom. If the symptoms persist, seek medical help because you could be suffering from a heat disorder that requires treatment.
The bottom line:
Running in hot weather is not ideal, but there are ways to make it a safer, more enjoyable experience. So, run during the coolest time of the day, stay hydrated, protect yourself from the sun and wear appropriate clothing. You can have a fun, safe run if you take the appropriate precautions!