Running In The Heat
There are definite benefits to running in the heat. In addition to training, regular jogging in hot conditions makes it easier to maintain a faster pace and causes perceived exertion to drop, including a surge in blood plasma volume, higher sweat rate, decrease in salt in sweat and reduced heart rate at a given pace and temperature. It’s recognised by experts that for every 10°F (12°C) increase in air temperature above 55°F (13°C), there’s a one to three percent improvement in the typical finishing time for a marathon (meaning an extra three to six minutes for a 3:30 event). However, it’s important to avoid overheating. Here’s our advice on how to run safely.
1. Know The Symptoms
Running in hot weather can be extremely dangerous – particularly in regions like Florida, where the humidity is unusually high at times. Dehydration increases the risk of heat-related illnesses. Early symptoms of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke include an itching sensation in the skin and goosebumps. Other signs are aheadache, weakness and fatigue, nausea, dramatic variations in heart rate, dizziness and profuse sweating. It’s more commonly experienced by runners who aren’t well adapted to hot conditions. If you’re suffering these symptoms, then stop immediately–remove yourself from the sun and recover with a cold drink and preferably air-conditioning.
2. Research The Heat Index
Look into the heat index and decide whether it’s safe to run based on that value. The heat index is a value of the temperature experienced by your body according to humidity and air temperature. The main issue with the heat index is that it’s based on an individual 5’7” (170cm) tall, 147 pounds (67kg) in weight, Caucasian, with a 98.7°F (37°C) body temperature, wearing long trousers and a short-sleeved tshirt, walking in the shade at a speed ofroughly 3 mph, with a breeze of 6 mph, and not even breaking into sweat! Nevertheless, the National Weather Service has a really useful heat index chart. Examine the colour coding and try to avoid running in the ‘extreme caution’ or ‘danger’ range.
3. Learn About Heat Stroke And The Risk Profile
Heat stroke is serious, as your core body temperature is probably already over 105°F (40°C) by the time it has happened. Despite lingering uncertainties in the medical field about heat illness during running, we can be sure that it’s best to avoid hard workouts or races if you’re sick. If all you have is the common cold, then research confirms that there shouldn’t be any harm in going for a short easy run. However, if you’re feeling ill and it’s hot outside, then it’s best to scrap the intervals or the 5k road race.Heat illness is most likely to occur in the course of a medium-length, high-intensity five-mile race or six-mile hard tempo run. A long run or marathon is actually safer in brutal heat.
That is surprising to many, but is one of the key findings of South African medical doctor and physiology researcher Timothy Noakes in his 2012 research. He found that serious cases of heat stroke are much more common over distances from five to 15 kilometres. Popular wisdom would suggest the contrary – that longer distances are more dangerous, since you’re spending more time in these harsh conditions. In reality, though, the pace requirements of a marathon or ultramarathon are not sodemanding. Heat production is reduced in longer races and body temperature increases are more staggered, giving the brain more time to recognise and accommodate the danger.
4. Take Steps To Stay As Cool As Possible
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. It will help to drink before, during, and after your workout. Do this even if you do not feel thirsty! You can tell you are getting enough if your urine is light or very pale yellow. It’s imperative that you do NOT consume alcohol, caffeine, or drinks with high sugar content like soda because they can cause you to lose fluids.Water is your best friend for less-intensive workouts. If you plan to exercise for a few hours, opt for a sports drink. These replace salts and minerals as well as fluids. Go for lower-calorie options containing less sugar. Finally, take care that your drinks are cool, but not too cold. Extremely cold drinks could result in stomach cramps.
5. Be Prepared And Dress Appropriately
Limit your training on very hot days. Try training in early morning or later at night.When you do go running, be sure to wear light clothing, position yourself mostly in the shade, and drink water every 15 minutes.Lighter colours, microfibres and wicking fabrics are excellent choices, as are running shoes with a breathable, flexible mesh. Protect yourself from direct sun with sunglasses and a hat and don’t forget the obligatory sunscreen (preferably SPF30 or higher). If you can, stop to recuperate in a shady area or at least try to stay on the shady side of a walking or hiking trail.Despite popular urban myths, it’s NOT a good idea to take salt tablets. They can worsen your risk for dehydration.
6. Take Breaks
When going for a run in the summer months, try to include regular breaks and use them to stay cool. Instead of a six mile tempo, try two lots of three miles or three lots of two miles at a slightly faster pace and with a short rest. Maintain a cooler full of towels so that you can take one (frozen the previous night) and wrap it around you to help your recovery when finished.Heat illness, though potentially very severe, is quite rare and easy to avoid for the informed runner. Following the steps we’ve outlined here, along with keeping yourself hydrated, taking electrolytes and paying attention to what your body is telling you, should help to mitigate the threat of overheating.
- Heat Index – National Wather Service
- A modern classification of the exercise-related heat illnesses – NCBI