For some, running in the summer months means getting up early or going out late in order to avoid the heat of the day. But if your schedule doesn’t allow for either of these adjustments, there are steps you can take to keep you safe and healthy while training in hot conditions.
“If you’re not careful, running in the heat can be dangerous, leading to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or even death,” says Christopher Gordon, MD, a sports medicine physician with Intermountain Healthcare. “If acclimated, your body can adjust to the higher temperatures so you can still get the benefits of exercising outdoors in warmer weather.”
Dr. Gordon points out that a person’s body has a harder time cooling off when humidity in the air is high enough that it reduces the ability for sweat to evaporate off the skin. While Utah may not have to deal with terribly high humidity, temperatures can easily be in the high 90s, which means keeping your body as cool as possible should be a runner’s top priority.
Tips for Staying Cool During a Summer Run
Here are Dr. Gordon’s top suggestions for keeping cool during a run in the summer sun:
- Wear light colors and breathable fabrics. Avoid dark colors that attract the sun as well as long sleeves or pants that prevent the body’s natural cooling process. But remember to wear adequate sports-friendly sun screen to make sure you don’t end up with a sunburn.
- Run in the shade whenever you can. Stay away from direct sunlight and the blacktop. Consider wearing sunglasses or a visor that will shade your eyes and skin.
- Plan for occasional rest breaks to allow your body to cool down in order to prevent heat exhaustion. Find a good shade tree and take a few minutes to stretch while you’re cooling off.
- Stay hydrated. A person can lose between 6 and 12 oz. of fluid for every 20 minutes of running. Its important consume about that same amount (150-350 milliliters) of water every 15-20 minutes of exercise. If exercising less than an hour, water as recommended for hydration. If you’re going to spend more than an hour, hydrating with a sports drinks may be better than water because it contains electrolytes.
- Be patient. It takes a few days for your body to adjust to hot weather, usually between eight and 14 days. Gradually increase the length and intensity of your training. During the first four to five days, your body will learn to make the adjustments it needs, like increasing your sweat rate and decreasing your core body temperature.
- Avoid Sudafed, Benadryl, and other medications that may impair your ability to sweat while training. Talk to your primary care physician or pharmacist about alternatives.