Many runners, especially beginners, are more inclined to go for a run when it’s nice outside.
But you may find that although you were getting on fine in the cooler months and sticking to targets, once it starts warming up, things just get that bit more difficult and you start to struggle.
This isn’t just the case for amateurs – there have been concerns in the news recently about the Olympic running races to be held in Tokyo in 2020. With temperatures there currently exceeding 40℃, it’s not hard to see why! Some suggested ways to beat the heat include starting the race at 2am, moving it to a cooler destination in the north, or ensuring that participants run mostly on the east side of roads, where they’re better protected by the shade.
Taking a cue from the Olympic organisers, getting an early start and running in the shade are just some of the ways you can stay safe when running in hot weather. Before we take a get started, it’s helpful to understand why running in hot weather is so tough.
Why Is Running In Hot Weather Hard?
When we sweat, we aren’t cooled down by the sweat itself, but by the fact that it evaporates off the body.
When the air is more humid – and therefore contains more water – the amount of sweat that evaporates off your body is reduced, and therefore it takes longer to cool down. If it’s not humid where you run, but is a dry heat, the issue is slightly different. The hot, dry air will evaporate sweat from your body almost as quickly as you produce it, so your body runs out of fluids and you’ll become dehydrated at a quicker rate.
How Can You Stay Safe Running In The Heat?
Get Used To The Heat
It wouldn’t be a great idea to start out running, or start an intense new plan, when it’s 30 degrees out – you simply won’t be used to the heat and it’ll be a struggle. If it’s possible, it’s a good idea to start out running in cooler seasons and allow your body to become gradually used to running in increased heat.
Run at Cooler Times
That being said, we wouldn’t want to put anyone off running if you’ve got the itch to get started in summer! If you are running in a warm season, try going in the early morning or evening, when it’s less warm. If you do run during the hottest part of the day, try and stick to some shade.
Several Virtual Runners said that running at cooler times, or in cooler places, is their tactic for running in the heat. Polly Frances Urwin runs near the sea to catch a cool sea breeze, and Claire Sweter-Millar goes for early morning runs. As an extra top tip, she runs in loops, so that she can leave her water bottle and return to it – a great idea if you’d rather run with your hands free!
Also consider that concrete and asphalt put out quite a lot of heat, so you’ll probably find it cooler running on a trail (blog coming soon). Additionally, trails are probably likely to have more shade!
Drink water before, during and after your run, and bear in mind that you shouldn’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. If you’re going for a longer distance run, take a sports drink to replenish electrolytes and keep your muscles fuelled.
If you’re feeling hot, splashing some water on your head can help cool you down quickly. Although, as VR community member Tracey Smith pointed out, be sure not to pour the remains of your water bottle on your head when it’s full of useful electrolytes!
Wear The Right Gear
When running in hot weather, clothing should be kept breathable and loose, which helps your body cool down and allows sweat to evaporate. You should opt for lighter colours, which will better reflect the heat. Hats can also be useful, but ensure the material is breathable and not too thick, as your head needs to lose heat (or opt for a visor instead).
A few Virtual Runner community members pointed out some interesting equipment you might not have considered, too. Po Stoneman suggested using an ice towel, also known as a cooling towel, and Gabriele Neher (photo below!) runs with a buff. This keeps her hair out of her face, and when it’s really hot it can be soaked in cold water, which will keep you cool for at least the first few miles!
Don’t forget suncream if you’re out for a longer run!
Know When To Stop
You should be aware of some of the telltale signs of heat-based problems. If you get a headache, start feeling faint or dizzy, stop sweating or if your skin feels clammy and cool, stop running, get to some shade and drink some water.
Consider the concept of perceived rate of exertion. This will increase as the temperature increases, so even if you’re running at what would normally be a comfortable pace, it’s still a harder run. Try running by effort instead of pace!
Virtual Runner Elaine Differenthal suggests that you don’t try for any PBs in the heat. Instead, take all the necessary precautions and just do the best you can.
At the end of the day, common sense is key when running in the heat: take sensible precautions, keep hydrated and know when to call it a day!
A huge thank you to Jenni Jones for sending us her photo proving that running in the heat is achieveable, even if you do end up a little sweaty!