June 21st marks the first day of Summer. Lucky for us, Bay Area temps don't get too hot. But then again anything over 70 degrees is too hot for us Bayareans. When running outside and the temperatures go up, our body core temperatures increase, our bodies work hard to keep us cool and performance decreases. I want to share some things that work for me when running in the heat and I want to make you aware of signs of heat illness.
When the outside temperatures get hot and you need to get a run in, it is important that you prepare yourself as much as possible:
Plan your run-
If you know it’s going to be hot, run a familiar easy route. Save the hard workouts for another day. Do yourself a favor and plan your run early in the morning or in the evening. No need to go out there at the peak of the day and get cooked.
Start out slow -
Starting out at your normal pace will only increase your core temperature faster. Starting out slow allows your body to acclimate to the hot temperatures.
What to wear-
Where UV protective gear, sunglasses and a hat. Stripping down and exposing your skin only exposes you to the UV rays and your sweat evaporating. Covering up with light UV protective clothes can protect you from the UV rays and hold your sweat to keep you cool. Another thing that works for me is wearing with a wet cloth around my neck.
Run for cover!
I like to run to the shade. I like to stay out of the sun as much as possible, even if only my legs are covered by the shade. This strategy has worked for me while running a 200-mile relay race in the middle of Summer in So Cal.
Hydration and electrolytes-
When it's hot, we automatically want to drink ice cold water to keep cool and hydrated. While this is true, here are somethings to talk about before you start pounding down water before and during your run. When its scorching hot out its not only important to drink water but its important to replace all the electrolytes you lose through your sweat. Swap your water with an electrolyte supplement. Gatorade is a household favorite for electrolytes. If Gatorade is too sweet, I like to use Nuun, Watermelon is my favorite! Nuun is lightly flavored, not too sweet and is formulated to help you replenish electrolytes you lost. Another easy way to replenish electrolytes is to try taking a salt tab. No, not table salt but an electrolyte tab. Electrolyte tabs have the same ingredients as Nuun or Gatorade but all in a capsule or tablet form. I use Salt stick capsules. They are easy to pack while on the run and has helped me stay cramp-free during long runs and marathons.
Something to be mindful of while hydrating during your run, is not drinking too much. Drinking too many fluids can dilute your electrolyte levels and will put you at risk of Waterlogged or Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia. Drink enough to satisfy your thirst and do not over consume liquids. Drink slow and small sips. Taking electrolyte supplements or eating something salty can help you maintain electrolyte levels.
Keep your expectation low-
As temperatures increase expect your performance to decrease. Your body is going to be in overdrive to try to keep you cool. Once you hit a point where you can’t cool yourself down your brain will take the necessary steps to slow you down to cool off. Keep it slow and expectations low.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat illness-
- A headache and nausea
- chills or goose bumps
- cessation of sweating
- faintness or dizziness
- Strong and rapid pulse
- hot dry skin
- Loss of color
It is okay to stop and give it a go another day. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke is no joke. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms stop running immediately, get indoors or find some shade, drink a cool beverage, cool off with a wet cloth and stand in front of a fan. If you find symptoms are getting worse make sure to get to a ER!