How to stay comfortable running in a heatwave

Whether you’re following a training plan or not, once you get into a good running routine, you’re not going to want to break it.

It might be tempting though, in the current heatwave, to skip your runs in favour of something cooler or less intense. But if you are going to stick it out, how can you make sure you’re properly equipped to train safely?

Before slipping on your trainers, it’s important to know the warning signs, risks and safety measures to avoid heat exhaustion, heat cramps or the potentially life-threatening heatstroke.

Luckily, personal training experts Origym are here to share their top tips for keeping yourself safe without missing out on your regular runs.

1. Plan a well-shaded and flat route

“Stay in the shade as much as possible and save those hill climbs for cooler temperatures,” advise Origym experts. “With your body working harder than usual, it’s best to stick to flat routes with plenty of rest spots.”

Origym suggest taking paths and lanes with more trees, which cool the air. “Their canopies intercept sunlight, block heat from reaching the surface and keep you sheltered.”Roads and buildings, on the other hand, absorb heat and raise the temperatures even higher.

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2. Wear the right attire

Origym’s experts say: “We strongly advise opting for loose-fitting, lightweight clothing with light colours to reflect the sunlight, as well as staying away from 100% cotton. It absorbs sweat and won’t dry quickly so it will become uncomfortable and affect your performance.”

A handy hack for heatwave running is using a lightweight running hat or visor which you can freeze the night before or dampen with cold water. It will keep the sun from your eyes, protect your head and reduce the risk of encountering heat and sun stroke. 

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3. Protect your skin and eyes

Sunburn isn’t just uncomfortable and unsightly, it actually prevents the skin from cooling itself down when running in hot weather.

To make sure you’re protected, Origym’s experts recommend covering all exposed skin in waterproof sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher 30 minutes before heading out on your run. If you run for longer than an hour, be sure to take some with you to reapply – and don’t forget your sunglasses.

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4. Keep yourself cool

To cool yourself down, pause your run to splash water on your head, back of the neck, under arms and the insides of your wrists. “Be careful not to get your feet wet – blisters are the last thing you need.”

“Don’t overdo your warmup, either. With the temperatures being higher, your muscles will warm up quicker. A five to ten minute walk before you start running will help you adjust to the temperature without overheating.”

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5. Stay hydrated

One of the most important things to consider when running in the heat, and simply running in general, is hydration. This includes ensuring your body is well hydrated before you even head out.

“Start with a full glass of water and then ensure you take a bottle of water on your run, drinking sips approximately every ten minutes to keep you hydrated. A great tip is to freeze your bottle of water the night before, and take it out the freezer 15 to 20 minutes before you run.”

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6. Adjust your expectations

Origym’s experts advise saving your fitness challenges for cooler months. “Running in the heat and humidity affects performance. It can be frustrating, but we recommend adjusting your expectations and fitness goals when running in hot weather.”

“Slowing down will help you produce less heat and improve your endurance. As you begin to acclimatise and feel more comfortable running in hot weather, you can gradually increase your pace and duration if it feels right.”

7. Take breaks and incorporate interval training

“Running at a continuous, steady pace and for long intervals causes your heart rate to increase. Your body is consequently working harder to regulate your core temperature, which can in turn – lead to overheating,” say Origym’s experts.

Interval training, like fartlek, gives you a chance to recover and cool down during the lower intensity durations. Although the production of heat is much greater during interval training, resting between each interval allows your body to lose some excess heat.

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8. Cool down post run

Your body will need longer to recover when it’s very hot, so be sure to have plenty of rest days or choose alternative exercises that you can do indoors out of the sun.

“Take a shower as soon as possible following your run and avoid sitting around in sweaty clothes – this can result in bacteria build-up and cause infections or skin issues. If you can’t shower immediately, have a change of clothing with you.”

9. Fill up on vitamins and minerals

Recovery is also harder in the heat. “Valuable vitamins and minerals are lost through sweat and muscle repair in hot weather. Therefore, it’s important to get enough of the right nutrients to support your recovery and replace any necessary nutrients that you are losing,” Origym’s experts add.

And which key nutrients should you be mindful of consuming? “Vitamins and minerals such as sodium chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin C, iron and zinc.”

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For more running tips, nutrition and training plans, check out Strong Women Training Club. 

Images: Getty

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