Running in the Heat – Sun Safety
I’m stuck in the middle of a heat wave, which is pretty rare here in good old England. Musn’t grumble. Well maybe I must, because we’re world class moaners in the UK, especially if that involves the weather. What I’m getting at is that running in the heat and sun safety are really important. In fact, you can put your own life in danger if you go out in the countryside without preparing properly.
It was only two years ago when Joshua Hoole, a soldier, died on the Brecon Beacons while undergoing hot-weather training with the army. The young man was said to be “superfit” and three SAS recruits had died in the same area three years earlier. Joshua had been doing an eight-mile test march and was wearing a 25 kg rucksack, but there was water on the route and the soldiers were supposed to be carrying water with them. Significantly this was on the hottest day of the year, however, the march started at 7 am and it was about 9 am when Joshua took ill. Clearly not the hottest part of the day by a long way, but hot enough to kill none the less.
Not wanting to sound alarmist, but you get the picture. Running or exercising without taking proper care of yourself and you could end up in serious trouble. The hospital bed might, for once, be a blessing if any past stories are to go by. I know it’s not often we associate exercise with dying, unless it’s a car accident or something, but take heed of this warning. The sun can and will kill you if you give it the chance.
Is it Okay to Run in the Heat?
You’ve been looking out of your window all winter dreaming of warm weather, but now it’s here you feel like your an egg that’s about to get fried as soon as you head out the door. Well that is entirely possible if you don’t prepare correctly.
It’s essential that you take on enough fluids before your run, during your run and after your run. Don’t go and try to drink the tap dry, you’ll feel sick when you start running and will possibly get stomach cramp if your belly is too full. Keep your fluid intake evenly spread out and while running only take small sips.
The first thing you will need when running in heat – and let’s be honest, when we say heat we mean in the sun mainly – is your sun cream so you don’t get burned like I did as a eleven-year-old child. I’d been to the old reservoir for a swim with my friend Chrissy and didn’t know the score with sunburn. I was only a ‘bairn’ after all. Well the next day when I had blisters on each shoulder the size of cracked eggs was the most pain I’ve ever been in during my whole entire life. Yes, I got a week off school, but it wasn’t a week laughing behind my mother’s back, it was a week in agony. Ouch! Double ouch! Ayazzz in fact.
Ever since that day I have always had respect for the sun. The cold of the water and the chilled breeze hid the fact that my skin was getting cooked in stealth mode. Funny how you can get burned while cold? Strange, but true.
So enough about my sunburn, the point is if you are going to be running for a few hours then protect your skin, especially if you are blonde or fair haired like me. Even some darker complexioned people can still get burned so best to be safe than sorry.
How Much Extra Water Should I Drink in the Heat?
According to the Government’s Eatwell guide, we should be aiming for between six and eight glasses of water a day as a normal person. If we take into account exercising and hot weather then that is easily going to be ten glasses of water. You can of course add a couple of sports drinks in the mix as well. Not only will sports drinks help you stay hydrated more effectively, due to their special formulas that include such nice things as electrolytes, that your body absolutely adores during hot weather.
If you’ve started to feel a little thirsty then you may have lost perhaps 1% of your total body weight in water.
On the other hand, if you’ve gone past feeling thirsty and even parched you are officially dehydrated with a 2% loss of your bodily fluids. In this state you are at risk of fainting, heatstroke and all sorts of other nasty things that aren’t on your to-do list.
Should you struggle with the taste of plain water, then add a smidgen of diluted fruit juice and that will give you the same effect as the posh flavoured water, but without wasting your money in the process.
Skin Protection in the Heat for Runners
A few things to consider and the reasons why:
- Blisters: sweaty feet and warm damp conditions can encourage blistering skin so cover them in Vaseline or sports lube to stop excessive chaffing. Another good tip is when buying sports shoes, your feet swell up with heat and also during the day so don’t measure your feet first thing on a morning – go shoe shopping later on in the day.
- Chaffed skin: Joggers nipple or fissure of the nipple to be exact, is when you’ve been sweating and running while your clothing has been rubbing up and down on your nipple. It’s a painful experience that most runners will come across during their running career. You can prevent this by using creams or Vaseline as well as putting a sticking plaster on for protection to prevent rather than cure the problem.
- Sunburn: the number one way to protect yourself from the sun is avoid it altogether. While this might not be desirable or even practicable, you should avoid the hottest part of the day which is usually between 10 am and 4 pm depending on where in the world you are living or running. You still need to use sunscreen to prevent any burning, as you probably know this comes in lots of different strengths known as factors. Get the highest one you can if you’re more concerned with protection rather than a sun tan. If you have a darker complexion then you can get away with the lower levels of protection. If you have got burned then sun lotion will soothe your red skin and it’s best to put this on after you’ve been running or working out. Aloe Vera is especially good for soothing sun burn.
- Antibiotics: you can get both spray and ointment both do different jobs. You can use antibiotic spray to prevent fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. Antibiotic ointment is good for sore skin that looks like it might be getting infected. It’s quite possible that you will feel a slight sting when applying such liquid, but that’s better than getting an infection.
- You can keep all your various remedies in a little travel bag that can be stowed in the car or even taken on certain runs, maybe if you are doing an ultra-marathon or endurance event where people travel with more kit than a regular running race.
Protect Your Eyes While Running
The heat will sap your energy levels, but the sun will also make it uncomfortable for you if you don’t run with something protecting your eyes. Either use a visor or cap, but in order to remain cool a visor is the preferred choice.
A decent set of branded sunglasses is a must. Oakley are probably the most popular choice with athletes, especially runners, cyclists and mountain bikers. The optics they provide are razor sharp, plus they will protect you from all the harmful UV rays that the sun blasts down on you while you’re out running.
As well as enhancing your comfort and giving you a fashion boost, sunglasses come in many other flavours, such as clear lenses to protect your eyes from dust. They also come in tints that give you better vision in early morning or late evening situations when the sun is rising or setting. Good optics should be a standard feature in your running kit. You don’t have to spend a fortune on them, because good brands can be had at a decent price, especially if you buy in the sale.
Glasses aren’t just for looking cool – the benefits they provide are legitimate and will ensure that you’re running as safely as possible. Get some!
Do You Run Slower in the Heat?
The heat places extra stress on your body, because the heat that you generate when running has a harder time leaving your body. In general it’s advised that when running in high temperatures that you add between 30 and 90 seconds to your mile pace. That obviously depends on how fit you are to start off with.
Depending on how far you are running will also determine how much you are affected by the heat. For example, if you are doing sprints or intervals on the track then you might still be able to do your normal sprinting speed, because you will simply have to spend a few more minutes recovering while the sun beats down on you.
However, if you are doing a 5 K run then you probably won’t have the luxury of having to sit down and take a break, therefore you have to alter the pace of your run accordingly. Slow down just enough that you can manage the heat without putting yourself in any danger. Remember – safety first. You want to get fit, but not at the expense of a hospital visit.
Do You Burn More Calories Running in the Heat?
Due to the fact that your body has to work harder to cool itself when running in the heat, it is very likely that you burn more calories than normal. That said, though, it isn’t going to make a huge difference. If we consider the distance and time you achieved on your run, then that is what is going to have the biggest effect on calories burned.
Unfortunately calories burned comes down to simple physics and mathematics, not so much to do with temperature.
It’s also worth noting that running in the heat while it might burn more calories; it won’t be noticeable if you have run at a slower pace than you would normally over the same route.
When all is said and done, we wouldn’t pay attention to stuff like this. Just concentrate on your normal running routine and putting in the hard work and mileage. That’s the best way to burn calories, get fit and lose weight.
Is it Harder to Run in Humid Weather?
This question is essentially the same as running in the heat. Yes, it is harder to run in humid weather because your poor old body has a harder time cooling itself down.
Strange factoid, that I haven’t told anyone for ages, is that if you placed one person in a desert and one person in a rain forest, who would you think will die of heatstroke first? Yep, you guessed it… the person in the rain forest of course!
Now I know most of you were probably thinking the desert, if you’re honest with yourselves. The reason it’s actually the rain forest is because when you’re in a desert and you’re sweating like mad, at least when the wind blows past it wicks the moisture – your sweat – away from you and takes some heat with it.
The poor guy in the rain forest isn’t able to cool down because the rain forest is already at 100% humidity, which makes it super difficult for your sweat to wick away any body heat. Hence, you get hotter and hotter and end up dying. When air hits full humidity is is totally saturated. Your body heat remains within your body instead of getting evaporated away, as would normally be the case.
Five More Runner’s Reads
- How to Breathe While Running – Nose or Mouth?
- 30-Day Running Challenge for Beginners
- Couch to 5K Runner Smartphone App
- 10 Wickedly Simple Running Pace Calculators
- 30 Ways How to Run Faster and Longer
How Do You Stay Safe in the Sun?
What’s your favourite remedy for staying out of trouble while exercising in the summer weather? Your feedback is important to us so please share any tips you may have that you feel will help others.
The main thing to remember when running in the heat is listen to your body. It’s super important that you are in tune with yourself because there is a difference between toughing it out and putting your health and safety on the line. You don’t have to prove anything so bad that you risk putting yourself in hospital.
Tomorrow is another day – use it to your advantage. Wait until the weather has cooled down and then put the hard graft in and beat your personal best or vanquish your friend’s time that he has been winding you up with.