Photo credit ‘Aaron Rolf’ – aaronrolph and Ultra X
Having spent 2 years living in Greece and recently completing a 5 day, 250km ultramarathon across Sri Lanka (in the 35+ degree heat), it's fair to say our Head Coach Ben knows a thing or two about what it takes when training (and racing) in the heat. While it does make things harder, it will be a great way to develop your fitness at the same time. With lots of races and marathons all over the world coming at the end of summer, especially the London Marathon, here are a list of simple but important tips to protect yourself whilst running in the heat.
Set yourself up for success
First of all, set yourself up for success. If you're going to be training in the heat, take a look at the PB time that you submitted to us - this might have to be adapted slightly so that you're able to achieve the paces within your sessions. Training in the heat will make running significantly more difficult so whilst you may feel 'unfit', this is not the case - it is the effects of the heat on the body. Head to the Manage Plan section of your app to make those changes so that you can still get a sense of accomplishment.
Avoid the midday heat
The sun is the strongest at midday. Avoid sunburn and dehydration by scheduling your run for the morning or once the sun has started setting. Taking a long run during the hottest part of the day can put a lot of strain on your body which will not only affect your performance, but your recovery as well. In general, avoid running between 12pm and 3pm, and try to map out a shady route!
Use a treadmill
If you have access to a gym, it could be an idea to hop on the treadmill to complete your more difficult workouts and prevent heat exhaustion. You can change the units of your plan to align with your treadmill, making the transition very simple.
We hear it time and time again, but drinking enough water is SO important. Recommended daily intake varies between countries due to differing climates, but in the UK the advised amount to drink is around 2 litres to replace normal water loss (emphasis on normal). When exerting more energy and sweating more, you should look to increase your water intake before, during and after you run.
If you’re new to endurance running or running in the sun, buying yourself a hydration vest is a must (top tip: they are also great for carrying sugary snacks to keep you going). You can fill the water bottles up with your hydration drink of choice - we recommend adding electrolytes and salts too.
Slap on that SPF
Unprotected exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin and eye damage, as well as suppression of the immune system, so remembering to lather on the suncream before heading outside for your long run is vital. You could be outside for hours, so opt for a 50+ SPF to ensure maximum protection. Don’t just put it on the areas that are exposed either - UV rays can penetrate some clothing so remember to rub it over your face, hands and body.
By all means, you have the right to wear whatever you feel comfortable in, but it’s worth bearing in mind that your body temperature will increase considerably when running in the heat. Running gear that felt manageable before you left the house might have you regretting your outfit choice 5 minutes into your run. If you enjoy wearing shorts, opt for those. If you’re happy to wear a vest, go for it.
Another consideration is to be mindful about the fabric you choose when buying activewear. Bamboo is a popular choice at the moment and it's clear why - it’s light, breathable, and sustainable. It can also protect your skin from UV rays! Cotton-blends also work well - they are more sweat-wicking than 100% cotton.
Finally, colour matters too - it would be wise to avoid dark colours. White reflects more of the sun’s light than black so you can stay cooler for longer!
Embrace the hat hair
If you’ve ever experienced a sunburnt scalp, you most likely won’t want to experience it again. Although there are more and more SPF products for your scalp becoming available, wearing a hat is a much easier, cheaper (not to mention less greasy!) option. It goes without saying that the likes of floppy, fedora and beret hats are out of the question here; a simple baseball cap will do the job.
If you’re in the market for a running hat, try opting for one with breathable fabric. Covering your scalp when the sun is beating down on it will really help to prevent you from overheating when on your long runs, or risking heat stroke!
Don’t pressure yourself
As mentioned previously, below optimal conditions can really hinder your performance, so don’t expect to run your best. Your body will be focusing on keeping you cool so your paces may not be as fast as you expect them to be. Don’t let this demotivate you - it is better to maintain your training and get a little less desirable results than to skip it entirely, especially when it comes to training for long distances.
Prepare accordingly and your training is likely to be unaffected. If you have to take your long run on a hot day, following the above steps will leave you in good stead. Be safe, be sensible and most importantly enjoy it!