When the weather begins to warm up after a long winter, people start daydreaming about all the incredible things they’ll do come June and July. Trips to the beach, theme parks, pool parties. You name it.
Another thought that enters people’s minds is how much weight they’ve gained over the holidays. If you want to look amazing in all those vacation photos, you’ll want to sweat off all of those pumpkin pies that were too good to pass up.
Running is a great way to accomplish this, but running in hot weather without taking proper precautions can have serious consequences. Heat stroke is one of the three leading causes of sudden deaths among athletes.
If you’re ready to beat the heat by embracing the heat this summer, read on to learn how to keep yourself safe during those long, brutal runs.
When we get hot, our instinct is to start peeling off layers of clothing until we cool down. While it’s true that exposed pores can sweat more easily, exposing more skin to sunlight is one of the worsts ways to stay cool. Instead, consider covering up with moisture-wicking materials that will soak up sweat rather than trap it in like cotton.
Also, think about the color of the clothes you’re wearing. Black is slimming, but it actually absorbs heat more quickly. On the other hand, white and other lighter colors will reflect sunlight and keep your body temperature cooler longer.
If you’re running in the middle of the day, you should always wear a hat and UV-protection sunglasses. If you’re running a marathon or doing a longer workout, you might also consider a thin scarf or bandana to protect your neck and shoulders from the sun.
However, no matter what you decide to wear, always put on waterproof sunscreen when exercising outside, so you don’t sweat right through it.
Listen to Your Body
Athletes, especially long distance runners, are often accustomed to ignoring muscle pain and fatigue in the name of progressing. “Mind over matter”, as they say. However, not only is this practice not wise. It can be dangerous and even deadly when you’re in the heat.
If you feel dizzy, light-headed, or at all nauseous, find a shaded area and drink some water as soon as possible!
There are two sides to every coin, and hydration is no different.
On the one hand, drinking enough water is paramount to both a proper workout and a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve been exercising in the heat for a while and no longer feel thirsty, it means your body is going into survival mode. You need to stop your exercise and find a source of cold water immediately.
On the other hand, if you drink too much water before a workout, your blood will become too watered down, and your sodium levels will be depleted. This can cause muscle cramps, dehydration, and even organ failure.
A telltale sign of whether or not you’re properly hydrated is the color of your urine. When you’re drinking enough water, your urine will either be clear or a pale yellow. If it’s a dark yellow, make sure to drink a glass of water and wait a little bit before heading out for your run.
“Cooling down” after a workout of event doesn’t just mean catching your breath. Your blood also needs time to recirculate through your entire. When you exercise, your brain sends a higher than normal level of blood to your legs. If you sit down right after you finish exercising, that blood will have a harder time getting back up to your torso, and it will take you longer to cool down.
To prevent a slower cool down and even injury, always spend at least fifteen to twenty minutes walking, drinking cool water, and eating healthy snacks to replenish your electrolytes and lower your core temperature.
Practice in Similar Environments
If you’re training for a marathon or race, make sure to practice in the same environment that you intend to perform in. Training indoors and running on a treadmill will improve your overall performance. However, your body will not maintain that same progress in the heat.
In higher temperatures, the body is constantly keeping track of water retention and core temperature. If those levels become dangerous, it will instinctually lower performance levels in order to keep you safe. Doing periodic workouts in the heat will slowly raise your endurance and train your body to adjust to the temperature.
When you’re doing these periodic workouts, take your time. If you can run four miles at the gym, start with two. Your heart needs to learn how to adjust when sending blood to your muscles.
After all, the body overheats from the heat given off by your muscles, not the temperature of the environment. The difference is that heat escapes the body by transferring to a place where the air is colder. If the temperature outside the body is the same or exceeds the temperature inside, that heat has nowhere to go.
This is why you need to start small when acclimating your body to those hot summer days. You may choose to either focus on pace or time. If you can normally run a certain amount of miles in three hours, keep that same pace for only an hour and a half.
Once your body gets used to this, you can start adding time in order to quicken your progress.
Running in Hot Weather
The goal of fitness is to allow the body to function at its absolute best, no matter what that means to each individual. Running long distance is the perfect way to build stamina and endurance. However, an athlete’s habit of “sucking it up” is not advised when running in hot weather.
Make sure you take the precautions mentioned above when training in the intense heat, and be sure to read our article on proper ways to cool down and recover after a long workout.