Running in the heat and humidity of summer is difficult and poses more than one challenge to runners and athletes. Even if you run at 5:30 in the morning or 10:00 at night when the sun has set, high humidity and air quality alerts not only impact your performance, but make every step miserable as well. While most of us might prefer to lounge by the pool during the dog days or hibernate inside, there are some things we can do to stay cool – and safe – when summer temps spike. Whether you are new to running or have run for years before now, below you will find some of our helpful hints to keep you running smart, safe and successful as the temperatures heat up.
Runners need to take precautions when running in the heat and humidity, including dressing properly for summer temperatures. Avoid wearing cotton because it holds sweat and doesn’t dry quickly, which can lead to painful chafing. You should be wearing synthetic fabrics (100% polyester, CoolMax, Dri-Fit, etc.) to wick moisture away from you skin so that sweat can evaporate effectively. True, technical running fabrics may cost a little more, but you will appreciate being comfortable on longer runs. You can shop for technical fabrics at regular department stores to save money or shop at your favorite running specialty shop. Be sure to dress in lightly-colored, loose-fitting clothing, which when combined with appropriate fabrics, helps your body cool naturally by allowing it to breath and by reflecting light from your skin.
You should wear sunglasses or a hat to protect your eyes from the rays of the sun and unnecessary fatigue and/or headaches that may be caused by constant squinting. You can find running sunglasses and hats that are made of wicking fabrics too. Apply sunscreen before your run to provide further protection from the sun. A lot of summer running apparel is made from mesh fabrics that may not prevent damage caused by the sun. You want to be sure the areas of your skin that are not covered (including your face) are protected.
|Me and Judi playing it cool last summer. (And yes, I do own more than just this one summer racing shirt!)|
|More summer coolness.|
Also, don’t neglect your feet! I highly recommend getting fitted at a specialty running shop for footwear. The staff should be experienced at assessing your gait, pronation and running form to fit you in a pair of shoes that will keep you not only running comfortable, but help to keep you running injury-free. In addition, you should wear technical (non-cotton!) socks to keep your feet cool and dry. Wet feet can lead to blisters, which can be painful enough to sideline you for a run. As with clothing, you should look for socks that are made from polyester, acrylic or other wicking materials. You should not double up on wearing socks, which can cause chaffing and blistering as well. Ladies, it is also beneficial to get fitted for a sports bra. While I know many ladies who double up on sports bras, I do not recommend it because it is uncomfortable, hot, causes chaffing and does not adequately provide support, especially if you have a larger bust. There are bras that will fit you – you just have to find them and a running shop can help you do just that! These are two of my favorite options as a “larger” lady:
|Moving Comfort Fiona -This is great if you are looking for functionality and style.Love the adjustable straps!|
|The Enell – Self conscious?Your girls will not move an inch in this baby!|
The easiest way to avoid complications from heat is to keep your body hydrated. This means drinking water before, during and after your workouts. You may want to invest in an inexpensive water bottle to carry with you during the day so you have no excuse not to drink. Listen to your body and don’t wait until you are thirsty to start drinking, you should be well hydrated before you even set foot outside to run. I have postponed a run due to inadequate hydration.
Recognizing symptoms of heat illness is also very important. Symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms stop running immediately – find shade, cool water and fan yourself with a shirt or other item if possible. You want to keep the air moving around you. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention right away.
If you are going to be running or exercising longer than 30 minutes, you should be consuming both water and an electrolyte sports drink (I prefer Gatorade). Drinking a sports drink like Gatorade helps to replace salt, electrolytes and other minerals that are lost when you sweat. With warmer temperatures and longer runs, you may want to consider carrying your own hydration or having it readily available on your run or during your workout. You can find a variety of hydration belts or handhelds at running stores or online. I used to think a hydration belt would be awkward to wear, especially in the heat, but after just a couple of runs, it became part of my regular gear and now I feel like I am missing something when I head out without it. I have literally tried just about everything out there. iFitness is my favorite:
|iFitness 12 oz Hydration BeltLove that it sits low on the hips.Plenty of room for gel and personal effects like a phone, plus you can add extra pockets.Love that it has a race bib holder, no more ripped up bibs or shirts!|
It’s important to remember not to push yourself too hard this summer to take weather conditions into consideration when running. Hot and humid conditions are not the time to push the pace and it is okay to slow down in extreme conditions. Don’t be afraid to slow down, take walking breaks, or even take a moment to rest and hydrate while out on your run. Save your hard efforts and maximum exertion for more favorable weather conditions – don’t try to beat the heat! While following the schedule is important, it should not be your religion. If you need to adjust your schedule, pace or mileage due to fatigue or heart, don’t be afraid to do so. Listen to your body!
What are your favorite tips to stay cool during a summer workout? Please share!
Until the next mile marker,