Running in the Sun
Now that summer is finally here, it’s not a bad time to throw on the old running shoes and go for a jog out in the neighborhood. While the nice weather definitely makes for a more pleasant and scenic route, it also means you need to be more conscious about the heat and how it can affect your body. Even the most seasoned veteran runners should take extra care to stay hydrated and pace themselves properly when running in the heat.
If you’ve recently started to exercise more regularly and want to incorporate outdoor running into your regimen, keep in mind that your running plans should accommodate for the summer heat. If possible, try to avoid running or any other outdoor exercise during the peak hours of sunlight. The hottest hours are typically around noon to 3 p.m., so it’s best to plan your run for earlier in the morning or later in the day. Optimal temperatures are 50s and low 60s. On days when it’s truly boiling outside, a run on the treadmill in an air-conditioned gym may be the safer bet. The scenery is definitely a step down, but a run in scorching temperatures can become more detrimental to your health than helpful.
The primary concern when it comes to summer running is dehydration. To combat this, you should not only remember to drink plenty of water, but also be able to recognize signs of potential dehydration. You’re experiencing dehydration when you’re losing more fluid than you’re intaking, so the risk is higher during more strenuous activity under hotter temperatures. Symptoms can sneak up on you: gradual feelings of dizziness, nausea, dry mouth, and an absence of sweating. You might also experience muscle cramps, and in more serious cases, loss of consciousness. If you undergo any of these symptoms, slow your run to a walk, drink some fluid, and seek medical attention if necessary.
As you should for any other prolonged activity outdoors, apply sunscreen when going out for a summertime run, especially if you’re prone to sunburn. It can’t hurt to bring along sunglasses and a hat as well.
As for keeping hydrated, you should drink water before, during, and after your run. Roughly a cup of fluid every 15 minutes of exercise is a safe bet. Water is usually satisfactory for many people, but sports drinks are good for extended periods of exercise. Sports drinks contain electrolytes and nutrients that can help you maintain your stamina during a workout. In addition, hyponatremia is a somewhat rare condition that can arise if you drink more water than you actually need. Hyponatremia essentially entails a dilution of sodium in your blood due to the excess amount of water in-taken. Sports drinks can offset this concern due to their high amounts of sodium.
Remember that conditions can change as you’re running, especially if you’re out there for a while; temperature and humidity can rise. It’s best to take it easy and slow down when this happens; not only is it safer, but your overall performance will likely benefit from conserving some energy. Many marathon runners abide by this suggestion and it often pays off. Speaking of which, if you’re looking to train for a marathon or other longform race, running in substantial heat may be unavoidable come race day. In this case, it’s wise to try and acclimate to the heat instead of taking measures to avoid it. Giving your body the opportunity to adapt to the conditions will be hugely beneficial in the long run (literally). Keep all of the aforementioned tips and warnings in mind, but be sure to give your body a break in the few days prior to your race as to not overwork it.
Take care of yourself out there, and enjoy the run!