I’ve been following conversations by runners on Twitter lately. The trending topic for runners (okay, I just made that up :P) is how to train in this heat. Yesterday Metro Manila temperature hit a whopping 34 degrees Celsius, making it the hottest day this year.
Mmm, runners burnt to a crisp!
The cop-out is, of course, not to train at all. But I know runners, and we can’t go a few days of no running without going a little bonkers.
So here are a few tips from my personal experience and from browsing other running websites about how to continue running in the summer.
Run early in the morning or at night. Obviously one way to duck the sun’s rays is to do your runs before the sun even rises. Do take note of when the sunrise is, though; during the summer the skies are usually light at 5:30am and the sun starts shining in earnest around 7:30am. Also when doing runs in the very early morning, around 3am, keep your wits about you and wear a reflectorized vest and/or headlamps. It will be dark and there may be some drunken or sleepy motorists on the road. You can also run at night (which is what I usually do). The best time is when the sun has completely set, so the air and ground have somewhat cooled.
Run in the gym. Even though I dislike treadmills, when I can’t find the time to run in the early morning or at night I’m thankful I can run in airconditioned ease at any time of the day at the gym. Remember to keep proper running form even on the treadmill, keeping a high cadence and landing lightly on your feet. (I see plenty of gym bunnies running with bounding, stomping steps. Ouch!)
Carry hydration. You should be drinking plenty of water during this season. Even though you don’t feel beads of sweat, you actually still release moisture through your skin, which evaporates to cool your body off. You’ll need to chug down during your runs as well, and keeping a hydration bottle handy in a belt or in your hand ensures you never go dry.
Wear proper clothing for the heat. Fabrics that are lightweight, allow air to circulate, and help evaporate sweat faster will keep you cool. Dark-colored fabrics absorb sunlight’s heat energy rather than reflecting it, so wear light-colored gear. And if you do want to wear a hat, use a vented one or a visor to allow heat to escape (most body heat is lost through the head).
Use a towel. Because our tropical country is humid as well as hot, the moistre in the air sometimes won’t allow our sweat to evaporate. You can carry around a small towel to wipe down your face and arms periodically, which helps cool your body (notice how much cooler you feel with slightly damp skin versus skin with heavy sweat on it).
Expect to be slower. If you’ve ever felt significantly slower during a race when the sun started to beat down on you, your mind’s not playing tricks: because your body is working hard to cool you off because of the heat, more blood is moving through the capillaries in the skin like water through a car radiator instead of providing oxygen to your running muscles. (Source: Active.com) But training during the summer months does pay off not only when you race in the heat, but also when you race later in the year: according to this Runners’ World article, there can be significant performance gains when racing in cooler weather.
Beware the signs of heat illness. Apart from dehydration, you also want to avoid overheating, which leads to heat illness which is fatal when left untreated. Listen to your body, and stop your workout when you experience any of these conditions:
- intense heat build-up in the head
- general overheating of the body
- significant headache
- significant nausea
- general confusion and loss of concentration
- loss of muscle control
- excessive sweating and then cessation of sweating
- clammy skin
- excessively rapid breathing
- muscle cramps
- feeling faint
- unusual heart beat or rhythm
I hope you have a safe and enjoyable time running even in this summer heat. See you on the road!