What to expect and how to cope with 20*C+ running weather.
As the temperature hits 20*C in the UK, it’s time to think about how hot weather affects your long runs (and what you should do about it).
How does hot weather affect long run performance?
How do you feel running in hot weather? Whether you’re a sun worshipper or a cold weather fan, there’s no denying the facts. The human body is impacted by temperatures of 15*C and above.
It might surprise you to know that sports performance drops even at temperatures of 10*C-15*C, as this paper published in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows. (1)
Running in hot or warm weather is hard work for our muscles, because they heat p twice – once from external temperature and once from our exercise efforts. This puts extra pressure on the body’s cooling systems. One of these cooling systems involved moving blood to the skin’s surface. This results in a battle inside your body when you run – your muscles need more blood, but your body wants to cool you off by sending the blood to your skin’s surface.
Which one wins? The cooling system. This explains why it can feel so tiring to run when you are hot.
The other big challenge with hot weather running is sweating. In moderate temperatures, your body can produce enough sweat to cool you down. But when it gets hot, the sweat can’t evaporate fast enough to cool you down. You just end up losing more water. Your body definitely won’t want this to happen, so it will do everything in its power to make you slow down or stop.
Your summer long-run strategy
It’s a good idea to modify your long run strategy to deal with summer weather or sudden heat waves.
1 Run early in the morning
2 Stick to shaded areas
3 Avoid the hottest part of the day
4 Consider humidity as well as heat
5 Remember heat is reflected off manmade surfaces
Clothing considerations for summer running
A few small changes to your running wardrobe can keep you safe and comfortable in the heat.
Invest in technical clothing made from wicking fabrics. Avoid cotton which will soak up sweat and leave you hot and uncomfortable.
Shorts and a vest top might seem the best choice of outfit, but thin fabric can protect your skin from overheating. Consider a very thin long sleeved top to protect your shoulders, upper back and chest.
Wear sunglasses or a peaked cap. Keeping the sun off your face and out of your eyes helps you feel cooler and more comfortable.
Hydration and cooling strategies
Staying hydrated is one of the most important and useful tips for dealing with hot weather. Carry fluid with you on your long runs (runs of over an hour). But remember that hydration doesn’t start and end with your exercise sessions. Pay attention to hydration all day long.
Think about ways to introduce more water to your daily routine. Drink a glass of water in the morning. Carry a water bottle with you and have one on your desk. Sip water throughout the day. Add lemon, lime, mint leaves or orange segments to water to make it more refreshing.
Water alone won’t be enough to help your body cope with running in hot weather. Electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium) are lost through sweating. Proper electrolyte balance is important for every part of your body, including brain and nerve function and muscle movement. Add electrolyte tablets to your water once a day to avoid dizziness, lethargy, and brain fog. There are loads out there (some with caffeine, if you need an extra boost) – choose one that tickles your taste buds!
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