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Running in the Heat
Sun Safety Tips for Summer Running

Don't let the sun ruin your run!
Don't let the sun ruin your run, keep cool with ice.

Running outside is a great way to get exercise. But during some of the hotter days of the year, it can get dangerous. Dehydration and heatstroke happen quickly. Here are steps you can take to protect yourself before and during a run.

Alcohol and many types of drugs like antidepressants and antihistamines can dehydrate you. Pounding back a few drinks the night before a big run can leave your body wanting the next day. When you're running in hot weather, consider limiting alcohol and optional dehydrating medications for a minimum of 24 hours before.

Drink water and stay hydrated, but don't just do it when you're running. You should make sure to take in enough fluids the hours and days before long runs as well. On especially hot days or for long runs, consider sports drinks that have electrolytes which increase your water absorption rate.

During races, grab two cups of water at every water station. Pour one over your head to cool down and drink the second. A simple way to see if you're properly hydrated is to check the color of your urine. It should be a pale yellow.

Check weather sites and find out what the humidity levels are going to be. Take more precautions on days that are humid. High humidity slows down the rate that your body sweats. Your body cools down as sweat evaporates. So if it's a high humidity day, your sweat doesn't evaporate as fast and you don't cool down as well.

Plan to run in areas that have some wind. Even a small breeze can increase sweat evaporation and make temperatures feel 4-5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. There's a reason people say the breeze off the ocean or a lake is refreshing, because it does lower your body temperature.

Map a shady course. Look for routes that are lined with trees. Stay on the side of the street that has shadows cast by buildings. The air under a shaded area isn't cooler, but you stay cooler because the sun isn't adding heat. When you stand in the sun, the solar radiation hits your body and heats you 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit more than when you're covered.

Avoid hot surfaces like pavement and concrete. They tend to radiate heat back up, making things even hotter. When possible look for grassy or sandy areas that don't reflect as much heat.

Pre-cool your body before a run. Researchers found that once body temperature reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit for both men and women, participants ran out of energy. The longer you can delay your body from heating up, the longer you'll be able to run. Pre-cooling methods like taking quick cold baths, cold showers or sitting in front of air conditioning systems all helped runners go further and stay cool longer. Even a pitcher of ice water poured over you before you start can be a big help.

Pre-cooling your body doesn't mean you shouldn't warm up your muscles. You still need to do that, but you must do it in addition to cooling yourself. If your shower is large enough, do some warm-up exercises under the cold water.

Run early in the morning or late in the evening when it's naturally cooler. Mornings are generally better because the air has been cooling the entire night, so it's typically coldest right before the dawn.

Wear clothing that's designed to cool. That means choosing wicking fabrics that draw sweat away from your skin and dry quickly. Select lighter colors that reflect solar radiation. Use a sun visor or loose-fitting hat that has vents, so heat doesn't build up in your head.

Bring cooling gear along with you.

  • Cooling vests use water and "evaporative cooling" to keep people cooler for 5-8 hours.
  • Something as simple as rolling up ice cubes in a bandana that you tie around your neck can work wonders.
  • I like to put a damp sponge on my head and a couple of ice cubes on top of that. Then I put on a hat to hold it all together. As the ice melts, it spreads cold water into the sponge and onto my head.

Tell someone in your house when you leave, where you plan on running and when they should expect you back. Carry a cell phone in case of emergencies. Then if you don't show up later, someone will know that you're overdue and they can retrace your steps to find you.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.