Admittedly, running in a heatwave is not something we often have to tackle here in the UK (although 2018 did give a few warmer-than-usual months). However, if you’re heading to a warmer country, or you live somewhere hotter, it’s important to know how to keep running, safely.
The temptation is there to get back from work, stick your feet in a paddling pool and settle down with a cold beer and a good book for the night. Or is that just us? We’ve put together our top tips to help you keep running during a heatwave.
Adapt your clothing
What you wear when you run can have a lot to do with how hot you feel. Choose your running clothes wisely if you’re heading out while the sun’s up. Wear loose-fitting, technical fabrics. This isn’t the time for your favourite black compression shorts. Black will make you feel warmer and the compression technology pushing against your skin is doing you no favours.
Good running gear is moisture-wicking, so it pulls sweat away from your skin to stop you overheating. A t-shirt can be better than a vest if it’s really sunny, as it helps cover your skin. Sunburn is a surefire way to make running in the summer unbearable and a serious health risk.
Don’t forget to add something to cover your face and eyes. Some runners like sunglasses, which are especially good if you suffer from hayfever too (summer really is the gift that keeps on giving for some of us). A visor is a good shout, as it keeps your face in shadow but keeps your head free to expel excess heat. Stick to lighter colours as much as possible too.
As Baz Luhrmann said…
“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists…”
We can’t say this enough. If you’re out in the sun for a long period of time, wear sunscreen. A really good one that is designed for sports or is water/sweat resistant. Normal sunscreens can sometimes make your overheat as they don’t let the sweat escape, and as you warm up they can feel slimy. Put it on 20 minutes before your run to let it sink in, and apply before dressing so you know you’ve covered everything.
Water and salts
When you sweat a lot, you will lose two important things in your sweat: water and salts. You should aim to be hydrated the whole time, rather than heading into your run without enough water in your system and trying to catch up as you run. Drink around two litres every day; maybe even more in warmer weather. Carry water on every run, even if you don’t usually. At the very least, grab a little cash just in case you need to make an emergency supermarket stop. Sports drinks are packed with electrolytes, which are essentially the salts you are losing when you sweat. Consider adding an electrolyte tablet to your water for running or pick a specially designed hydration sports drink. Don’t down your water either; keep steadily sipping it as you go to stay hydrated.
Pick your times
It’s not always possible to choose when you get to run, but if you can, try and avoid the hottest parts of the day. Normally this is considered to be from noon until 4pm, however this varies depending on where in the world you are. Getting out first thing in the morning is your best bet, as the sun hasn’t had time to reach its maximum capacity. You will find it easier to run at this time, but if you’re not usually a morning runner, it might take a few goes to find your natural rhythm when it comes to eating and fuelling up. If you have a shower at work, you could run to work, shower and know that your training is over and done with.
Choose cooler routes
Running on the roads is going to be the hottest. The pavements will be throwing the heat back up at you, and when you’re surrounded by buildings, you will find the heat trapped on the streets. If you have any chest problems, the combination of air pollution and hot weather can cause problems. Now is the perfect time to get off-road. Many parks, forests and river paths will enable you to run partially in the shade, which will make your run feel so much easier. If you can get near the water, the sea breeze could also help to cool you down.
Don’t start hot
If you are already boiling hot before you even go out for your run, your body temperature will rocket quickly. Try and get cool before your run so you start with a lower core temperature. Stick water bottles in the freezer. Your water will defrost as you go and at least you won’t have to drink hot water too early in your run.
Racing in hot weather
If you have a race planned during a heatwave, then things are a little different. You can’t adjust the time of your race to suit the coolest parts of the day. All you can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Make sure you know what kit you are running in and try it out. If something chafes on race day and you’re hot and sweaty, you’re going to feel that pain.
Plan to carry your own water, rather than relying on just the aid stations. And also plan how you’re going to carry that water. Research where drinks stations will be positioned, so you can top up as needed. Make sure you have electrolytes on you and consider carrying salt tablets, particularly if you are prone to cramps or excess swelling.
Adjust your expectations of the day and accept that you’ll likely have to go slower than planned. If you can, start to acclimatise to the weather and get out for a few practice runs to test your tolerance, kit and hydration choices.
Finally, just try and enjoy it. There will be other races, other summers and plenty more cooler weather ahead!