As we move into summer, and the weather gets warmer,* running can get difficult. Compared to winter, when the dark sky, rain and cold can make going out for a run seem like a miserable proposition, running in the summer should be easy, right? Not necessarily.
The bright sun and hot temperatures of summer bring their own set of challenges; especially the risks of dehydration or heatstroke.
With this in mind, we asked the amazing community of Lonely Goats for their tips on how to run in the heat.
Perhaps you always struggle to run in the heat? Or maybe you started running last winter and are now concerned about how to adapt to warmer temperatures? If so, read on.
It might seem obvious, but is worth repeating: you don’t need to wear lots of clothes when running in summer. It doesn’t matter if you feel a little chilly in the first mile, because you will almost certainly warm up by the second.
Not every runner likes wearing skimpy shorts, so wear what you feel comfortable in. Loose clothing, in lightweight breathable materials, in lighter colours are best for running on hot days.
Many Lonely Goats recommend wearing a hat. Some runners don’t like wearing hats as they feel covering their head makes them hotter. It is completely down to personal preference whether you choose to wear a hat or not, but reasons for doing so include protecting bald heads from the sun and keeping the sun out of your eyes. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Another great reason for wearing a hat is that you can soak it in water, or pack it with ice to help cool your head down. On extremely hot days, you may want to soak your running top too (or a bandana) and leave it in the fridge or freezer overnight to pre-cool it.
Water activated cooling towels, or ice packs can be helpful if you have a means of carrying them, or someone to hand them to you.
Sunglasses are recommended. If you’re screwing your eyes up to keep the sun out, you may be carrying that tension through your neck and shoulder muscles, which may have a detrimental effect on your running style. Relaxed eyes means a relaxed running style.
You might find chafing is worse if you’re sweating more. If this is the case, consider using a running lubricant on your sensitive areas or tape over your nipples to keep things comfortable.
Yes, it is possible to overhydrate yourself and develop hyponatremia if you drink too much water, but more likely than not that you will finish a run dehydrated on a hot day. Not only does this have a negative effect on running performance, but it can also cause serious health problems. Don’t go overboard, just drink to thirst and you should be OK.
A sports drink, or electrolyte replacement drink, should help replace the salts and minerals that your body loses through sweat. Make it up the day before your run and keep it in a fridge or freezer.
Even if you don’t need to run with a bottle in winter, you may find you need one in summer. If you don’t like carrying bottles, either find somewhere you can leave them, have someone else carry them for you, run past water fountains, or invest in a hydration pack. This is a backpack with a flexible bladder inside it that you can fill with water or a sports drink that you drink through a hose. It will keep your hands free, and if you put the drink in the fridge or freezer the night before, can keep your back cool too. Just bear in mind, you may get a sweatier back from having it covered, so experiment to see what works best for you.
Don’t just think about hydration when you’re running. Make sure you are well hydrated throughout the day. Your wee should be clear or pale straw-coloured. If it is dark, you’re either dehydrated or something more serious is wrong with you.
Tipping water over yourself – especially on your head, back of the neck, arms, wrists and legs – can help keep you cool through evaporation.
Some running events have on-course showers you can run through. You may not have this luxury when out for a run on your own, but you can still make the most of drinking fountains or taps you run past.
Running alongside a river or the coast is often cooler than running inland, or in the city. Plus, if you get really hot, you can always strip off and go for a quick swim to cool down.
Protect yourself from the sun
Wear sunscreen. Always. Find a good one that isn’t going to slide off you when you sweat.
If possible, run early in the morning, or late in the evening, when the sun isn’t as strong and the temperature isn’t as high. This might mean changing your running routine around a little, but you may find it is worth it.
Look for the shade when running and stick to the shadows wherever possible. Even if only part of you is in the shade, that is still better than nothing. Running through the woods can be lovely in the summer.
Carry some form of identification on you, plus an emergency contact number – just in case the worse should happen and you collapse and require medical assistance. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
Carry a couple of quid or a bank card on you. You never know when you might need to make a phone call, get a bus, buy a bottle of water, or treat yourself to an ice-cream during a run.
Readjust your expectations
Running in the heat is hard. No matter how much you try and mitigate against this, there is a good chance you’ll be slower on a hot day than a cool day. With this in mind, be prepared to run slower, cut the distance short, or skip a run entirely.
Don’t worry about pace. Just smile, and enjoy yourself.
A number of our Goats suggested finding a nice bar, ordering a cocktail, and chilling out rather than going for a run!
+++[*Assuming you’re in the UK, and that the weather behaves itself.]