Summer is well and truly here, and as the temperatures rise and the clouds clear it’s tempting to get outside and enjoy the good weather. If you’re a fan of keeping fit, you might start putting your running shoes on and try to get a good 5k in before dinner while making the most of the sunshine.
We’re certainly not going to tell you to stay indoors and avoid exercising in the beautiful summer sun. However, you should be careful. Running in excessive heat can be harmful to your health, and you don’t want to be locked indoors with heatstroke when the weather is as glorious as it is!
Luckily, it doesn’t take all that much to keep yourself happy and healthy in the heat. Next time you decide to go out for a summer run, take note of these tips to make sure you don’t fall victim to dehydration, heat exhaustion or any of the other summer hazards.
This is our first tip because it’s the most important: stay hydrated. When you’re running in the sun, this is vital, as you’ll lose a lot of water through sweating and therefore will become dehydrated faster.
Aim to drink about 250ml of water per hour for the entire day leading up to your run. It can take 45 minutes for your body to absorb fluids you drink, so waiting until you’re on your run to drink will probably not help you. However, it’s still a good idea to take water with you and drink as you get thirsty on the run itself.
You already know this, but you need to apply sun cream if you’re outside for any length of time in the summer. Even if the skies are cloudy, the sun can still damage your skin and leave you with painful sunburn, or worse, melanoma.
In addition to this, you should protect your eyes from the bright sunlight. A lot of runners choose to wear a cap to shade their eyes, but this can overheat your head so sunglasses or a visor might be more practical.
In hot weather, your body directs blood towards your skin to assist with cooling you down. This is all very well, but you need that blood to fuel your muscles. This means you simply won’t perform as well in the heat as you would in cooler weather. As such, you should make sure not to push yourself too hard.
Your first run in hot weather should be about 75 per cent of your usual distance, or at a 75 per cent slower pace. You can then build this up gradually over about two weeks, as your body will get more and more used to exercising in the heat throughout this time.
You can enjoy the weather without all the heat if you choose your runs carefully. For example, water is always cooler than the air around it, which creates cool breezes. If you run alongside a river, lake, canal or reservoir, you will find the temperature is much more manageable.
Similarly, running on or near grass will be cooler than the road or pavement. Tarmac absorbs a lot of heat from the sun and releases it upwards, making it unbearably hot at times. Grass dissipates that heat, and you’ll also usually find trees or other shady areas to run under.
In the summer, the best time to run is in the morning. This might not seem like much fun, but it’s the coolest part of the day. As the sun rises, it heats up the atmosphere and increases the temperature. However, this takes time, meaning the highest temperature of the day is usually around 3pm to 4pm.
It will take a while in the evening to cool down – you might have noticed that you’re able to sit outside until well past 9pm – so you’ll still find the heat quite difficult to deal with if you run after work. The coolest part of the day is the morning, when the sun hasn’t had a chance to heat everything up.