Summertime brings us outside, where we are free to escape the gym for a bit and enjoy fresh air and new sights. And outdoor running can be invigorating and motivating if you are near some beautiful scenery. However, the summer elements require a bit of preparation, from applying sunscreen, to staying hydrated, to avoiding poison ivy.
Like cold weather, hot temps bring their own potential hazards, such as:
- Heat Cramps
This results when dehydration leads to an electrolyte imbalance, resulting in severe abdominal or large muscle cramps. It is treated by ingesting drinks or foods with sodium to restore salt balance.
- Heat Exhaustion
Like heat cramps, heat exhaustion is caused by dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, and symptoms include a core body temperature of 102° to 104°F, headache, fatigue, profuse sweating, nausea and clammy skin. Treatment includes foods and drinks with sodium, cold packs on the head and neck and rest.
After running for several hours, hyponatremia can occur when excessive water intake dilutes blood-sodium levels, yielding headache, disorientation and muscle twitching. Emergency medical treatment is necessary.
- Heat Stroke
Dehydration and extreme exertions lead to a core body temp of 104° or more, headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse and disorientation. Emergency medical treatment is necessary for immediate ice-water immersion and IV fluids.
To help prevent these conditions and run safely in the heat, consider these tips from Runner’s World.
Tips for Running in the Heat
- Run early or late
Dawn and evening are the coolest parts of the day, when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong. Rearrange your workouts if possible to benefit from less heat.
Don’t do long or higher-intensity workouts during the heat of the day. If you must run at midday, pick routes with shade. When hot outside, start your workout slower, and speed up if you are feeling good.
- Dress accordingly
Wear clothes that are light in color, lightweight, and have vents or mesh. Microfiber polyesters and cotton blends are good fabric choices. It’s also smart to block the sun with a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Slow down
Every 5°F rise in temperature above 60°F can slow your pace by as much as 20 to 30 seconds per mile. So don’t fight it—it’s OK to slow down.
- Drink up
Aim for 16 ounces of a sports drink or water an hour before you head out. Then take five to eight ounces of sports drink or water about every 20 minutes while running. For longer runs, sports drinks are a good choice because they contain electrolytes, which increase your water-absorption rate, replace the electrolytes you lose in sweat, and taste good, making it easy to drink more.
- Seek shade
It’s always hotter in cities than in surrounding areas because asphalt and concrete retain heat. Look for shade or grassy areas, and run in the early morning or late evening.
- Check the breeze
When possible, start your run going with the wind and then run back with a headwind, which delivers a welcome cooling effect that is particularly helpful in the second half of a run.
- Be patient
Acclimatizing to hot weather can take as much as eight to 14 days, during which your body will decrease your heart rate and core body temperature, and increase your sweat rate.
- Try water running
Substitute one weekly outdoor run with a refreshing pool-running session of the same length. Use a flotation device in deep water, and move your legs as if you were running on land, with a slightly exaggerated forward lean and vigorous arm pump.