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Running in Hot Weather: 4 top tips & FAQs

By Localiiz Branded | 13 September 2021

Header image courtesy of João Ferreira (via Unsplash)

Brought to you by Bupa Global

As months of balmy weather continue to stretch out before us, we have been resigned to enduring our workouts under steamy conditions. Although it is inevitable that our neighbourhood runs will have to carve its route through sizzling temperatures, there are a few grounds to cover to make sure you are being safe while exercising outside in hot weather. Our friends at Bupa walk us through the most popular questions from outdoor runners about their practice in the summertime, and gives some tips on how to stay cool.

Is it ok to run in hot weather?

Being outside for your exercises does has its advantages. Not only does it boost your mental health, but the vitamin D from the sun improves your calcium absorption, immune functionality, heart health, and levels up the protection for your bones and muscles. What’s more, running amongst nature is a fantastic fitness experience that’s hard to imitate anywhere else.

However, it doesn’t take keen observation skills to notice how much harder it feels to run in hot weather. Without the right know-how or prep, it can even be dangerous, potentially resulting in death or an unpleasant heatstroke. Whilst running, your muscles are undergoing ongoing motion and friction, raising your body’s overall temperature. When your heart rate increases, the blood flows to your skin, and results in clinging sweat that is meant to eliminate excess heat with it. When your surroundings are excessively hot, the process needs to run at a faster pace, causing your body to work even harder.

It’s simple: Planning your route beforehand, in addition to drinking sufficient water along the way, are the two main heat-beating habits to integrate into your running sessions.

Can running in the heat make you sick?

Without the right precautions, running in the heat can potentially lead to dire consequences. The most common ailment is heat exhaustion, which is signalled by dizziness, nausea, dehydration, and feeling weak all over. Rest, find cover in a cool space away from crowds, drink plenty of water, and lie down. In the event that your body overheats and is not able to regulate its temperature back to normal, you may be at risk of a heatstroke.

If your symptoms evolve to include dizzying confusion, uncontrolled clumsiness, blurry vision, full-on headaches, and a racing pulse, these are definite signs that you are on your way to catching a heatstroke. Phone for an ambulance as soon as possible whilst cooling yourself down. Counteract the heat, if possible—getting into a cold bath is a good way to offer temporary relief.

How hot is too hot for running?

The formula remains simple. The higher the temperature and humidity, the higher chances there are of feeling unwell from heat-related conditions—it’s an easy ratio to remember. Certain groups, such as the elderly, young children, and people with underlying chronic conditions or health issues, are at a higher risk to sun-induced illnesses in general. Although different individuals have different ways of responding and adapting, it’s best to take into consideration your baseline health as well as how frequently you exercise.

As per the recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine, the breaking point is when the temperature hits higher than 26.6 degrees Celsius and the humidity is at 75 percent and up. In such conditions, it’s better to move your workout indoors instead. A treadmill can be equally as effective, with decreased risks.

What should I wear when running in hot weather?

Two key attributes should be on your checklist when raiding your wardrobe or favourite activewear shops for your running outfit. Comfort is key, as staying cool will be your second line of defence against the heat (after protection from sunlight). Long-sleeved tops are great for protecting your arms, and a loose, breathable fit made from moisture-wicking fabric is ideal.

An easy shortcut is to keep an eye out for the label UPF, which indicates the material’s UV protection factor. As a rule of thumb, an item that has a UPF rated at 50 is adept at keeping out around 98 percent of the sun’s UV radiation. Whereas, for contrast purposes, a white t-shirt only has a UPF of three.

Light colours on light materials can never go wrong, with the added bonus of vibrant styling and fashionable combinations. Add some sun-proofing accessories like a pair of sunnies or a broad hat, not only to complete the look, but also gain some points in protection in delicate areas.

Top tips to make your summer runs safe and enjoyable

Photo: Nigel Msipa (via Unsplash)
1

Stay hydrated

As explained before, the body sweats to get rid of excess heat. True as it may be that the process cools you down, the lost moisture lends to electrolytes like sodium and potassium being drained out as well. Hydration is the answer, meaning it is important to drink water throughout the day incrementally to top up your lost nutrients as you go along.

You may think that gulping down buckets of iced energy drinks at the end of a session can restore that balance, but that is a rather damaging misconception. Warding off the dreaded stitch and sloshy fullness that comes with making up for the sweat with a post-run chug, it is much preferable to drink water in small servings before, during, and after your run. Cool water is ideal, of course.

Still, there is no need to intensely draft up a schedule for drink breaks. Being mindful towards your body’s needs will be enough to tell you whether or not you are thirsty enough to need additional fluid. Take it slow and steady, and maybe invest in a handheld runner’s bottle, a water vest, or running belt so that you can have the option handy whenever you need a sip.

As a handy guide, Bupa has created a chart to discern your level of hydration. It inevitably affects your urine, which they recommend keeping at a pale, straw-like colour.

For the warriors out there who are sticking to their run for over an hour, consider getting rehydrated with a sports drink. Providing supplementary carbohydrate sugars and electrolytes, it is a viable choice to keep your glycogen levels in check, helping to bring your hydration back to baseline quicker.

Photo: Armin Rimoldi (via Pexels)
2

Use plenty of sunscreen

A crucial step that many unfortunately skip out on their routines is applying adequate sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, your skin is still at risk of being damaged or even sunburnt. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can hurt the skin, and can only be deflected using a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more beside a star rating of four to five.

It isn’t enough to apply it on the face and body, as wherever your skin is exposed is at risk. Frequently forgotten spots tend to include lips, ears, and the back of the neck. Regardless of if you are planning an intense training schedule or just heading for a brisk jog, stay protected and sunscreen yourself up before heading outdoors.

Photo: Alora Griffiths (via Unsplash)
3

Plan and time your runs

Beginners to running should be wary of the heat, avoiding hot days when possible, during the beginning of your easing into the endeavour. Generally, the sun is said to be at its peak between the hours of 11 am to 3 pm, which is the timeframe runners should steer away and take cover from. Early birds can enjoy a chilled-out morning run, which gives way to a preferably cooler temperature and also serves as a wonderful start to energise your day.

If you haven’t got enough time in the morning, evening runs are equally as great, making for a good way to relax your mind at the end of the day by shaking off the kinks in your muscles from the daily grind. In the case that the sunlight is still too strong for your runs, try to stick to shaded areas on your journey. Keeping flexible and staying open-minded is the way to go, as the length and speed of your run, your trail, or even whether or not you go for a run can be affected by many other factors.

4

Think about your diet

Your performance isn’t only impacted by your surroundings in the moment. It is also driven by the nutrients you have been giving your body to convert into power and energy, as well as fuel for recovery afterwards. Ensuring that you eat the right foods helps to keep your body in check and is a crucial part of any active and healthy lifestyle.

Bupa has compiled their top tips on getting in your main sources of nutrition in the infographic below. Pay attention to what you eat, and how its nutriments will affect your body while you’re running, or even right before and after your workout.

Sources

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Heat exhaustion. MSD Manuals. www.msdmanuals.com, last full review/revision Feb 2021

Heatstroke. MSD Manuals. www.msdmanuals.com, last full review/revision Feb 2021

What are the National Severe Weather Warning Service Impact tables? Met Office. www.metoffice.gov.uk, accessed 4 August 2021

Heatwave plan for England. Public Health England. assets.publishing.service.gov.uk, published May 2015

Sun protection for outdoor sports. American College of Sports Medicine. www.acsm.org, published 2015

Electrolytes and fluid balance. Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics. Oxford Medicines Online. oxfordmedicine.com, published April 2020

Water and sodium balance. The MSD Manuals. www.msdmanuals.com, last full review/revision Jun 2020

Baker Lb. Sweating rate and sweat sodium concentration in athletes: A review of methodology and intra/interindividual variability. Sports Med 2017; 41(1):111-28. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0691-5

Sports nutrition. American Academy of Orthopeadic Surgeons. orthoinfo.aaos.org, last reviewed August 2019

Thomas T Erdman Ka Burke Lm. Joint position statement: Nutrition and athletic performance. Academy of nutrition and dietetics, dietitians of canada, and the american college of sports medicine. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2016; 48(3):543-68. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000852

Healthy hydration. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, last reviewed August 2018

Corcoran M and Ayotte D. Individualized hydration plans for ultradistance endurance athletes. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal 2019; 23(4):27-31. doi:10.1249/FIT.0000000000000490

The sunscreen factsheet. British Association of Dermatologists. www.skinhealthinfo.org.uk, accessed 4 August 2021

Sun safety. Cancer Research UK. www.cancerresearchuk.org, last reviewed, 1 June 2021

Sport and exercise food factsheet. British Dietetic Association. www.bda.uk.com, accessed 4 August 2021

Nature and mental health. Mind. www.mind.org.uk, published May 2018

Gladwell VF, Brown DK, Wood C, Sandercock GR, Barton JL. The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extrem Physiol Med. 2013;2(1):3. doi:10.1186/2046-7648-2-3

Vitamin D and health report. SACN. assets.publishing.service.gov.uk, published 21 July 2016

Bupa Global

DISCLAIMER: This article was designed and produced by Bupa Global by searching internal and external data and information for information provision and reference purposes only. Any views or information mentioned and set out in this article/webpage is based on general situations. Readers should not regard them as medical advice or medical recommendations. Before making any decisions about the theme of this article, you are recommended to seek independent advice from suitable professionals (such as doctors, nutritionists, etc.). It is clearly stated that Bupa Global will not bear any responsibilities for others’ usage or interpretation of the information listed in this article. When preparing and/or updating this article, Bupa Global endeavours to ensure that the content is accurate, complete and updated but will not bear any responsibilities nor make any warranty or guarantee for the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of the information or for any claims and/or losses caused thereby.

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