Hot, clear-skied, summer days often offer just the right combination of beautiful weather and extra time in the day to want to spend some of it outside and running. However, as with exercising outdoors in any season, certain precautions must be taken to make sure you’re safe doing it.
Hydrate. Most heat-induced illnesses (such as heat stroke, or heat exhaustion) are the product of dehydration. It’s important to sufficiently hydrate before, after, and during your run. For long, demanding, or incredibly hot runs, you should always periodically replenish electrolytes you lose when sweat. This can be accomplished by drinking coconut water or a sports beverage in the place of every third or fourth drink. Being properly hydrated can also speed recovery from an existing sunburn.
Work up to things. If you go straight from running in cool climates or indoors to running in extreme heat, you’re going to experience some difficulty. It’s harder for your body to cool itself down in hot weather. Your heart rate will rise beyond normal exercise levels. Breathing will be harder than expected. An unaccustomed body is in for some trouble. Fortunately, you can work up to running long distances in hot weather by first only walking for a few days, then running only intermittently. Over the course of a couple of weeks, your body will learn to deal with the heat.
Dress for success. Wear UVA/UVB-protectant sunglasses and ample sunscreen. Wear only white or light-colored clothes. Avoid anything overly tight, as it will trap heat and sweat and promote skin irritation and chafing. If you’re already wearing sunglasses and sunscreen, a hat may be unnecessary, but it’s always best to go for maximum protection for your sensitive eyes and facial skin. Also make sure you are wearing proper footwear.
Don’t be a hero. Don’t go for a run when your city is experiencing a record heat wave. Don’t brave dangerous levels of ozone or pollution just to take your run outside. Do indoor dryland or machine-based exercises instead.
Stay close to home. Being miles from home, help, or cell phone reception is what makes the difference between a minor case of heat stroke or heat exhaustion and a major tragedy. Run on a track close to home, or circle back on yourself so you don’t end up dangerously far from help.
Run when it’s not so hot. You have almost no excuse to go running in a midday July inferno when the sun won’t go down until 9:00 that night. Sure, the summer’s hot, but there are plenty of temperate times to go running in the morning or night. You can train harder and smarter when it’s just a little bit cooler out.