Summer is here!* (*We’re assuming you’re in the UK. If you’re in another country, this post might be late, early, or both – sorry!)
Running in the summer is wonderful. Light mornings and evenings, nicer weather, and dryer ground, all add up to an enjoyable experience.
However, all the good things about summer running have the potential to cause problems, too.
In this article, we look at some of the positive possibilities that summer running offers, as well as a few things to consider if you want to run safely in the heat.
Here are some of the things we love about running in the summer.
In the winter, it can be easy to feel like you’re never outdoors in the daylight. You might get up in the dark, run in the dark, and commute to work in the dark. Then it’s light when you’re working, and back to being dark by the time you head home.
This is not the case in the summer. The lighter mornings and evenings aren’t just nicer to run in because you can see where you’re going, they’re safer too. Plus, the extra light opens up the possibility of getting back on the routes you avoid when it’s dark – such as heading off into the woods.
The extra brightness seems to make it easier to get up and out the door in the mornings, too.
Not wearing as many layers
The warmer weather means you don’t have to wear as much kit in the summer.
If you’ve been wrapped up in leggings, long-sleeves, jackets, hats and gloves all winter, striding out in shorts and a vest can make you feel free and liberated. It’s also an opportunity to dig out a cap and sunglasses and accessorise.
If you’re not a fan of skimpy shorts, consider loose, longer layers, rather than thick leggings.
Many of us avoid running on our favourite trails in the winter, either because it is too dark to see where we’re going, or because we’d rather not have to clean our shoes after every run.
In the summer, the trails tend to be dry, which makes them a joy to run on. In many places, normal road shoes will provide enough grip on dry ground, making multi-terrain runs easier and more comfortable. If you’ve not done it before, this is the perfect time to try trail running for the first time.
Running puts stress on our bones. Balancing running with enough rest and a healthy diet should make getting a stress fracture less likely – and can lead to stronger bones as we adapt to running – but this is dependant on getting enough vitamin D.
Fortunately, our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, so spending a little time outdoors in the sun each day should be sufficient.
Rain is OK
In the colder months, running in the rain can test the motivation of even the hardiest of runners.
In the summer, when we might be feeling too hot, a mid-run rain shower can feel refreshing and revitalising – like skipping joyfully through a fountain!
View this post on Instagram
First (socially distant) run out with the work crew since lockdown. I was hoping for a shorter distance to be honest, it was bloody hot! 😂 Felt really good though to be back to some sort of normality . . #instarun #run #runner #running #runnersofinstagram #runnerscommunity #runnerslife #runrunrun #healthy #fitness #halfmarathon #marathontraining #lonelygoat #lonelygoatrc #lonelygoatrunningclub #runhappy #runforwellbeing
As with all things, with the good comes the bad. Many of the things that make summer running so great, can cause problems too. Here are a few things to be aware of.
There’s a reason most long running events happen in the autumn, winter or spring, when the temperatures are cooler: Running in the heat is tough.
Each step we take requires a complex series of chemical reactions to produce the energy to power our muscles. These reactions also generate heat, which is welcome when running in the winter as it warms us up, but can cause problems in the summer.
Our bodies have an amazing ability to regulate our temperature, but we can only push this so far before it breaks. At best, we are forced to slow down a bit to stop our temperature rising. At worst, we risk overheating and collapsing.
To avoid this happening, there are a few things we can do:
- Run in the mornings and evenings when it is cooler;
- Stick to the shade where possible, or next to water;
- Don’t wear too many clothes, and stick to lighter colours;
- Cool yourself down by pouring water over yourself;
- Wear sunglasses;
- Be prepared to ease off the pace, or cut the distance short.
Similar to the above, is the increased risk of dehydration in the summer. When we’re hotter, we sweat more, which lowers the amount of water plus electrolytes and other important chemicals in our body.
Within reason, we can cope with a small degree of dehydration, but it is best to avoid it if possible. To do so, consider the following:
- Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day and before heading out for a run;
- For longer runs, consider taking a drink with you. Either carry it in your hand or a wearable pack, or stash a bottle somewhere you’ll pass frequently;
- The key electrolyte that we lose through sweat is sodium, which can be found in salt. Add a pinch of salt to your water, or use a sports drink or hydration tablet, to replace lost sodium.
- If you don’t replace your sodium, but drink loads of water, you run the risk of diluting the remaining sodium in your body, which can lead to a problem known as hyponatremia (sometimes referred to as overhydration). This is why it is advisable to only drink to thirst, rather than just drinking as much as you can.
This can all sound scary – hyponatremia is a problem that can prove fatal in serious cases – but it needn’t be complicated to run safely.
The important thing is to pay attention to your body.
- If you’re thirsty, drink.
- If you’re a heavy sweater, then you’re going to need to drink more (remembering to drink water and sodium) than someone who sweats very little.
- Likewise, if you’re going out for a short, easy paced run in the cooler part of the day, then you’re going to need a lot less to drink – possibly nothing – than if you’re running a fast session over a long distance when the day is hottest.
- If you start feeling light-headed, or develop blurry vision and have trouble running, then stop!
Some runners find they crave salty food after a hot run. This might just be because they fancy some chips (which is perfectly understandable), or it could be their bodies telling them they need to top up their sodium levels.
Obviously, too much salt can cause problems too, and you may have other medical concerns to take into account – have a chat with your GP if this is the case – but a well-balanced diet is likely to be the right course of action for most people.
Staying on the subject of sweat, all that moisture being lost from our bodies can cause other problems.
Wet clothing on skin can lead to chafing, so consider putting tape or a running lube on your sensitive areas.
Also, unless you’re washing it straight away, dry your sweaty kit out before you chuck it in the laundry bin, otherwise it will quickly start to smell foul.
Vitamin D is good for you, but too much sun exposure will lead to sun burn and potentially skin cancer.
This shouldn’t be new information to you, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate it here. Wear sunscreen and cover up.
Our last, perhaps unexpected, point is to be aware that the paths and trails you’ve gotten used to running on, might be more overgrown than they were before.
Warm, sunny conditions, combined with the inevitable summer rain showers, are perfect for growing nettles, brambles, trees, hedges and anything else that might encroach on narrow paths and make the going difficult.
Even grass can cause problems if it grows tall and thick. Not only can it be difficult to run through, but ticks like to hide in long grass. Check your skin after running through grass and pull off any ticks in a straight-up motion, no twisting, using a pair of pointed tweezers or a tick removal tool. You can find more advice on ticks here. If you develop symptoms of illness afterwards (even a few weeks later), see your doctor, as you may have Lyme Disease, which will need to be treated.
Get out and enjoy yourself!
We’ve mentioned a couple of nasty things – hyponatremia and Lyme Disease in particular – but please don’t let this put you off running in the summer. We only mention these potential problems so you can be prepared should something go wrong.
Millions of people run in the summer with no problems at all – and they do so because it makes them feel good.
If you head out and explore some new routes, with the sun on your face, it might even feel a bit like you’re on holiday!
View this post on Instagram
Warm Wednesday 🤣😂 Spent this morning being Theo’s teacher … we tackled transformations in maths, persuasion in English then tissue and cell types in Biology ☺️ Then lunch and out to get some exercise & walk the dog some where that he could keep dipping into the water. Got the Flanci skort on again…. I love this 🥰Fantastic day😁 . . . . . #flanciactivewear #lonelygoatrunningclub #warmwednesday #runnermum #walkingthedog #trailrunning #ukrunner #yorkshiretrails #yorkshirelove #nodramallamarunners #springerspaniel