Summertime Running & Managing The Heat
Summer heat shouldn’t stop you from regular outside activity, but being aware of how to deal with the heat is key for comfort, safety and enjoyment of staying active in the heat. Here are some tips for summertime running, most of which you can apply to other outdoor activities, regardless of age or ability level.
Preparing for the heat begins before your run starts. Be sure to check the weather and heat index and to modify activity on especially hot days. Running in the morning or evening enables you to avoid the hottest hours of the day (10am-5pm). By running in the shade or woods you can avoid direct sunlight and keep yourself cooler.
Consistent hydrating will help your body deal with heat. Experts recommend drinking 2-3 cups of water during meals, 2 ½ cups of water 2 hours before a run, and 2 cups of water just before running. Alternatively, aiming for 6-8 fluid oz. of water at least every two hours throughout the day can help your body adjust to hot temperatures.
Athletic clothing is designed to help regulate body temperature and stay comfortable. Cotton can impede your body’s thermoregulation because it absorbs your body’s moisture but does not dry easily. When it’s hot outside, the human body cools down by the process of evaporating and cooling through sweating, so it is increasingly difficult to stay cool as the humidity rises because evaporation becomes less efficient. Athletic companies design sweat-wicking and breathable clothing to help your body regulate the temperatures (and to keep you smelling fresh!). Lightweight, loose fitting and light-colored clothes are best to regulate your body’s heat and to reduce chafing.
Consider the material when you reach for a pair of socks. In order to reduce blisters, wear lightweight socks. Acrylic microfiber socks absorb moisture while allowing evaporation. If you’re heading out for a long day of activity, and especially if you’re blister prone, consider packing an extra pair of socks for your upcoming adventure. If you predict moisture problems with your feet or in your shoes, try sprinkling powder like Gold Bond Foot Powder in your shoes before activity. These powders regulate moisture and prevent nuisances like athlete’s foot and fungus. The breathability of your shoes is another important consideration. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of good shoes, replaced every 350-400 miles or as needed for the management of blisters and the support of your feet and ankles.
In addition to clothing protect your skin by applying sweat-resistant sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to your run. Sunglasses and hats protect your face and keep bugs out of your eyes. Light colored hats or bandanas can be lifesavers for people with dark or thick hair, but remember that your body loses most of its heat through the top of your head, so you don’t want to sport heavy headwear. Some helpful tricks include cooling a cap in the freezer before your run and soaking it in water mid-run.
Warming up sounds ridiculous when it’s blazing hot outside, but starting slowly (even at a walk) and building up to your normal running pace will help your body adjust to the heat. Warming up is especially important when your body is adjusting from inside air-conditioned climates to the outside heat, and to that effect, some running experts even suggest that runners limit their use of the A/C.
DRINK WATER DURING YOUR RUN! Be sure to find the right system of carrying water with you or mapping your run around public water fountains. If you are running for one hour or less, water alone should be sufficient for hydration. For a longer run, be sure to bring sports drinks or carbohydrates for adequate electrolyte and carbohydrate replacement. Studies indicate that your body absorbs chilled fluids faster, and cold water has the added bonus help lower your body temperature.
Pouring water on your face feels great in humidity, and it also helps wash away the sweat if your skin breaks out from sweating. (Note that moisture-wicking material and sunscreen that doesn’t clog your pores is great for preventing breakouts on other parts of your body too). Also try pouring water on the top of your head, the back of your neck, and on the inside of your wrists while running – sure ways to cool you down.
Be conscious of how hard you’re pushing yourself, and listen to your body. Heat stroke and heat disease are serious problems. Primary symptoms can be cramps in your legs, dizziness, excessive breathlessness, intense heat built-up in the head, headaches, nausea, disorientation, loss of muscle control, cessation of sweating, and unusual heart beat or rhythms. After initial symptoms, drinking water with salt in it, or sports drinks, can help. If you pulse is low and your breathing is growing rapid, you might have heat exhaustion. This can be due to dehydration and from overheating. STOP EXERCISING when this happens! Your body has probably sent too much blood to your skin to keep your skin cool and is not pumping enough blood and oxygen to your brain. These symptoms are serious – so slow down, drink lots of room temperature fluids, with a pinch of salt in each glass, or take a cool bath.
Remember that heat illness can be exacerbated if you already have a viral or bacterial infection, are taking medications, are dehydrated or hung over, have a sunburn, are not well acclimatized to the heat, are over exercising, have experienced heat disease in the past, are sleep deprived, and have medical conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, are under stress, have asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, cardiovascular disease or smoke. Using common sense, good judgment and attention to symptoms and preexisting conditions are paramount in keeping yourself healthy and safe.
Staying healthy, blister-free and hydrated continues after exercise too. Try not to leave your feet in sweaty, muddy or wet shoes after exercise. Be sure your feet are sufficiently aired out after your run – this will prevent getting blisters or hot spots in the future and keep your shoes (at least a bit more) odor free. Replenishing the fluids you lost through exercise is essential for both recovery and preparation for your next run. Additionally, a healthy and balanced diet, with attention to healthy levels of sodium (which enables water retention), potassium (promoting proper nerve and muscle firing), and fats (that enable thermoregulation), is as important to staying hydrated as drinking water.
Clubs, such as the Charlottesville Track Club, The Charlottesville Trail Running Club, or the Charlottesville Running Company, are active in the summer and bring the running community together. Joining these clubs can help with motivation, and running in a group can also keep you safe from the heat.
So keep being active, folks, but take care of your body by exercising right! If you have any other tips, tricks and suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to post a comment on this blog.
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