Hot Weather Running Tips
The dog days of summer are upon us, and if you live here in Arizona, you know that means we’re looking at about four months of three digit temperatures. For runners in “The Valley of the Sun” Phoenix, it means we have to get a little creative with our rituals, routines, and training schedules in order to beat the heat. While some runners retreat to climate-controlled gyms to log miles on the treadmill, for others, there is just no substitution for the outdoors - even when that fresh air feels like it’s fresh from the oven. If you fall under the category of diehard pavement pounders and trail runners, here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you stay cool and safe during your summer training.
- When the Sun’s out – You’re not. This may mean changing your routine as the seasons change. If you choose to run early in the morning, a good rule of thumb is to plan to be finished with your workout around 7am. After that point, the sun is up and doing its thing. If you’re staying close to home during your run, you may be able to push that time a little later, but if you’re traveling far on foot, this will allow you plenty of time to get back home before things start getting too sweltering. If you’re running after the sun goes down, stick to neighborhoods that you’re familiar with – everything looks different in the dark! Also be sure to make sure you’re visible. Wear bright colors, reflective gear, and a headlamp. Check your local running store for comfortable night running gear!
- Stay super hydrated! Hydration is the key before, during, and after exercise and during these hot summer months, it really is a matter of safety. Two to three hours before exercise, athletes should consume at least 17-20 oz. of water and then an additional 7–10oz. ten to twenty minutes before*. This insures that your body has plenty of time to absorb that water before you starting moving. A great indicator for your hydration levels is the color of your pee: urine that is the color of light lemon juice means that you’re good to go! Anything darker and you may need to increase your fluid intake before you hit the road. If you’re running in the summer you should always… I repeat… ALWAYS carry water with you. Stay ahead of your thirst - you should consume roughly 28-40oz of water for every hour you’ll be exercising*. None of this “I don’t want to hold a water bottle”, there are plenty of hydration systems on the market that are designed to wear comfortably while running! Check out your local running specialty store for options. When it comes to having enough water with you, you’re better safe than sorry!
- Replenish smarter – not harder. After exercise, listen to your body: your thirst, your energy, and the color of your pee are the most intuitive ways to tell if you’ve had enough water to rehydrate. It is recommended that you consume 20-24oz. of water for every pound of body weight lost during exercise*. Everyone’s body is different, but if you have been exercising for longer than hour, you’ve been working out in the hot sun, or you tend to sweat a lot, you may need to replenish with electrolytes as well. Sports drinks, electrolyte tabs and powders, even coconut water are great ways to replenish minerals, sodium, and potassium lost through sweat. Start those fluids going right after you get back from your run, eat a healthy meal to refuel, and pay attention to any signs of dehydration which may include: Dark and scanty urine, thirst, irritability, headaches, weakness, dizziness, cramps, and nausea*.
- Take it Easy. Running in the heat is HARD – both mentally and physically. Don’t push yourself too hard in extreme temperatures, take it easy, and listen to your body. Don’t get down on yourself if your pace is a little slower than usual, or you don’t go as far as you usually do.
- Be prepared and plan ahead. If you don’t want to carry a backpack hydration system or carry multiple water bottles, know where on your course you can refill. This may be a gas station, convenience store or community center. Some neighborhoods even have water fountains in the community.
- Gear up and dress for success. Wear light weight, light colored, breathable clothing. For anyone that has run in the heat before, you probably know all about this! I know I have those few outfits that I reserve for “hotter than you-know” days. You’re going to sweat, a lot, and materials that wick moisture away are going make a huge difference in your comfort. Avoid cotton as it tends to absorb a lot of moisture, and keep the sun off your face with a hat and sunglasses.
- Find a buddy. Getting out the door in those early morning hours and keeping motivated when it is sweltering outside is hard, but let’s face it, misery loves company. Find a running buddy and you can keep each other committed this summer. Once again, use your local running specialty store as a resource to get in touch with other runners in your community or connect with training groups.
Summer training doesn’t have to stop when the temperatures rise. Just plan ahead and take care of yourself over the next few months and you’ll be happy you did once the thermometer finally starts to dip. Happy running!
*Hot Topic: Beat the Heat – Combating Dehydration. Scott Larkin, ATC, CSCS. NSCA National Strength and Conditioning Association. http://www.nsca.com/Education/Articles/Hot-Topic--Beat-the-Heat---Combat-Dehydration/.