Staying Safe While Running in the Heat Even if you Haven’t Trained for it
Posted on 25th July 2022 at 14:10
With heatwaves becoming more frequent and hitting record-high temperatures, it’s all the more important that we understand the effects of heat on the body. Hot weather can increase stress on your body and, the warmer the weather, the more challenging this is for your body to handle.
Exercising then introduces additional stress on the body as, to cool itself, it sends extra blood nearer the skin. In doing so, your muscles lose blood, which can then lead to increases in heart rate.
If you’ve not been running in the hot weather before, your body won’t be acclimatised to the conditions so neither your mind nor body will understand what’s happening. Here’s what we suggest you do to help reduce the additional stress on your body (although we can’t remove it altogether).
Tips for staying safe while running in the heat
Here are some of our top tips!
1. Loads of suncream – this is essential. We’d suggest you find one suitable for sports so you don’t end up with sweaty, stingy suncream in your eyes.
2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol – and anything else that will dehydrate you. This can include some medications so check the side effects on the instruction leaflet. Electrolytes can help with dehydration so stock up on these in advance so you have some on hand. After all, the weather forecast can be a bit unpredictable!
3. Hydrate – we can’t emphasise this enough. Start in advance of the run and then drink to thirst whilst running.
4. Not just drinking water – if you need to, pour some water over yourself to stay cool.
5. Slow your pace – PBs are great but do you really need one when it’s blisteringly hot? Finishing with a slower time is far better than not finishing at all so walk if you need to.
6. Weather appropriate kit – consider what you’re wearing (or are going to wear). Is your T-shirt wicked? Do you have a cap/visor/sports glasses? These can help increase your comfort while running. You might even want to try out a hydration pack.
7. Stay smooth – prevent chaffing with Vaseline or body glide.
8. Know when to stop – your body will be sending you feedback on whether it can, or can’t, cope. If you start to feel cramps, headaches, disorientation, or nausea, you might be suffering from heat cramps, dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
We’ll look at these in more detail in the next section.
Listen to your body and know when to stop
You need to be aware of the symptoms of these conditions so that you can take action before your body literally stops you in your tracks.
Heat cramps – these are muscle spasms caused by losses in your fluid and electrolyte levels. If this happens, hydrate, slow down (or stop), and stretch.
Dehydration – your body can handle a small amount of dehydration (i.e., up to 4%) but anything more and it becomes a problem. Look out for feeling thirsty (even if you’re drinking), feeling dizzy, or dry mouth, lips and eyes. Drink plenty before, during, and after the run to avoid this happening.
Heat exhaustion – this can be serious if not managed within 30 minutes. If you act promptly and cool down, it is usually OK. The symptoms to watch out for include dehydration, nausea, headache and a body temperature up to 38C. Find shade, cool down, and seek medical attention if you can’t cool down.
Heat stroke – this is extremely serious. This is when your body temperature exceeds 38C and you’re experiencing disorientation, confusion, lack of balance, and lack of sweating. Seek immediate medical attention.
Don’t be scared into not running in the heat. You can – just stay safe and aware so you enjoy your run!
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