You may find it surprising, but many people are less keen on outdoor exercise during the summer than you would expect. If you're a runner for example, the heat and humidity affect your body rapidly, so that running your normal distance at your usual pace becomes a real challenge. Your body is having to work overtime to adapt to the conditions, and you may well struggle to hit your running goals. With this in mind, we've put together some useful tips that can help you adapt to the heat and run to the best of your ability.
1. The most obvious solution if you're struggling to run through the heat is to alter the time of your run. By running at cooler times of the day you'll manage to avoid the heat, while the air quality will be better. The downside is that you may encounter higher humidity. If you do have to run through the heat, adjust your route. Run in the shade or on the shadier side of the road. Choose a park, and avoid the road where possible, because asphalt and concrete tend to retain heat. Running in the morning can give you a boost that you'll enjoy throughout the day.
2. Adjust your intensity. Generally, you will fare better if you start out more slowly than usual, and then if you're progressing well, speed up at the halfway mark. Switch gears and adapt. If you're on holiday and unaccustomed to the heat, remember that your body will take two weeks to adapt to conditions so that it can cool itself efficiently. Once you are acclimatised, you'll be able to run at your usual pace because your body will have learned to decrease your heart rate, decrease your core body temperature, and increase your sweat rate.
3. Don't expect to be able to run at your normal pace. You should slow down. Why? Because every 5°F rise in temperature above 60°F will slow your pace by up to 20 to 30 seconds per mile.
4. Stay well hydrated during your run. If you're running for less than 45 minutes, drinking ordinary water is great. If you intend to run for longer, you may need to consider a sports drink that maintains your electrolyte levels. While you're sweating you'll be losing electrolytes such as sodium and potassium which need to be replenished. Check the labels of your sports drink to find the right one for you. It's important to be hydrated before you leave on your run, so drinking a sports drink approximately 60 minutes before you exercise is a good idea. Experts recommend drinking five to eight ounces of sports drink about every 20 minutes while running.
5. Consider your clothing. Wear as little as you can possibly get away with and make sure the material is vented and light in colour. Choose microfiber polyesters and cotton blends where you can and always remember to wear a hat. Sunglasses and sun tan lotion with an SPF of 30 or higher are essential too.
6. If there's a breeze, run into it! This will have a cooling effect, which is especially welcome particularly on the way home.
7. If it's too hot to run why not swim instead? At the very least you could try running in water which is something that Mo Farah does from time to time. Run in the pool for the same length of time it would take you to do your run. It's easier if you use a float and move your legs as if you were running on land, lean slightly forward and forcefully pump your arms.
8. Consider your diet - because eating the right food is vitally important when you're serious about your exercise routine, especially in the heat. You need to be eating foods that will fuel your activity as well as aid your recovery. What does this mean in reality? You should rehydrate after exercise, and ensure you are consuming plenty of carbohydrates and protein. Carbs will replenish your glycogen stores, while proteins will build and repair your muscles.
9. If the day is seriously too warm, exercise indoors. There are no gold medals available to anyone who chooses to exercise in dangerous conditions and your body will find it punishing and take time to recover. Far better to take it easy and exercise in another way.
10. Finally, remember to consider other factors that might lead to faster dehydration. For example, are you taking antihistamines or antidepressants? These will have a dehydrating effect. Similarly, if you have been drinking alcohol in the previous 24 hours, you're more likely to dehydrate quickly.
If running is not your thing, you may want to try something different like Nordic walking in Spain.
September 27, 2012