I hadn’t stepped foot outside all day today. When I finally left my desk and started walking home, I felt a bit sad that I’d missed yet another hot sunny day in London. I decided to walk home. I’d already done a spinning class at Digme this morning and even though running is faster, I decided I didn’t need the extra effort. Part of my walk home is along Regent’s Canal, one of my favourite places to run, and it seems a favourite for many other London runners. I watched as several sweaty runners went past me. They looked like they were struggling. Red faced and gasping for breath, their shirts were covered in sweat stains in the shape of Rorschach ink blots. I suddenly felt a bit smug that I’d decided to walk. Tonight, these runners didn’t make running look very fun at all.
Also, this isn’t related to running, but I just need to share this. There’s a guy that throws a ball into the canal for his lovely black lab every evening. If I’m walking, cycling or running there anytime between 6:00-7:00pm, I see him. The dog literally runs and leaps into the water and just looks like it loves life so much. He even does this in the winter and the dog wears a flashing collar so you can see him in the water when its dark. It brings me so much joy. All stress or grumpiness from the day immediately melts away. Maybe I need a dog…. Anyway….
After I saw the sweaty runners I started thinking about my own warm weather runs and the techniques I use to make a warm run more comfortable. I thought to myself, hey! I should write a blog post about that. But then I thought, surely, in my five years of blogging, I’ve written about tips for running when it’s hot. A quick search of my own blog yielded nothing. I’ve written about cold weather running, running in the rain, running overseas, running in the morning and running at night, but it appears I have never actually written about running when it’s hot. What the hell?! So, inspired by this week’s heat wave, here are my top tips to make that summer run more bearable.
Timing is everything
Try not to run midday when the sun is the hottest. Early morning or late evening is better. And with more than 15 hours of daylight this time of year, there are plenty of options. I sometimes run at lunch on workdays, but it is never ideal. Do as I say, not as I do.
This sounds like an obvious tip, but leave the long-sleeve at home, even if the morning temperatures feel brisk. Also, stick to light colours and try to avoid black. Consider wearing sunglasses and a hat. Oh, and DON’T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN! I read an article once that said runners have a higher rate of skin cancers than other people because we always forget that you can still get a burn while running, not just sitting on a patio! That article has haunted me ever since.
Find a route with a water fountain and shade
I’ve scouted all my local fountains so I always plan my hot weather runs through parks where I know there is a water source. If you aren’t sure, bring water with you, or bring some money or a bank card and get yourself a drink en route. On longer runs, I like to stop mid-way for a mid-run lemonade. It’s great. You should try it. Parks also often offer more shade than open roads so plan your route carefully.
Be nice to yourself
Heat makes you slower. It’s science. Be patient and give yourself a break if your average speed leaves something to be desired. If you’re travelling somewhere hot and want to run there, give yourself a few days to acclimatise. It takes the body several days to adjust heart rate and core body temperature when transitioning to hotter climates.
If you planned a hard interval session on the day it’s supposed to be 30C and sunny, maybe consider a different run instead. If it must be done, take it indoors to the treadmill. Try to be flexible with your workouts and pay attention to your body’s stress signals. If you faint or feel dizzy, stop. Don’t be a hero.
Some people use weird things like ice bandanas and other cooling gadgets but I don’t know that they are necessary. If you’re smart and sensible, all should be fine. And if you are fortunate enough to end your run at a body of water, jumping in a lake is the absolute best way to cool down.
Stay cool runners. Stay cool.