On Sunday I volunteered at junior park run in norwich, it was a beautiful day, hitting around 24 degrees ready for the kids to cross the start line. Watching how the runners got on in the heat reminded me how important is to train smart in the heat. Some kids got cramp, some said they were very thirsty, others didn’t drink enough. I’ve never had trouble training in the heat in this country, but I’ve certainly learned some lessons during ultras abroad!
Keep hydrated but don’t over drink
Obviously it’s important to keep well hydrated when training in the heat, you’re sweating a lot more so it’s important to keep up the fluid intake to prevent dehydration. But one thing we’re always warned about in the talks before an ultra is over hydration, which can be more dangerous for you than becoming dehydrated in severe cases and is less known. Sip water throughout your run, drink when you’re thirsty.
Stock up on electrolytes
Water is important, but you need to replace the salts you lose when you sweat. If you’ve ever run somewhere with extreme heat and humidity and ended the run with white marks on your clothes or a self exfoliating face then you’ve experienced losing salts! Adding electrolytes to your water or taking salt tablets will help replace the salts lost when sweating.
Be sensible with your clothing choices
Less clothes doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be cooler in the sun. In strong sunshine, a t shirt is often a better choice than a best for running in (trust me). Keeping your shoulders and the back of the neck covered can keep you cooler. Choose quick wicking fabric that pulls the sweat away from your body. A lot of people will say to wear lighter colours, but I’ve personally found that running in a black shirt has made things no less comfortable than running in a light coloured shirt. The other thing I’ve learnt is to cover your head. Whether you find a hat, a buff or a visor more comfortable, keeping some of the sun from your head will help loads. Oh, and while I’m on the subject of covering up – sun cream is your friend…don’t forget your hands and ears, which can be surprisingly painful when neglected in the sun!
Beware the blisters
Running I’m heat can cause your feet to swell and sweat, both of which can contribute to blisters…even if you don’t ordinarily suffer from them. Practise your blister prevention and make sure you have a little kit on hand. Choosing the right socks, a slightly larger size of shoe and taping hot spots will all help prevent blisters. A tip I was given at the end of the last ultra I did in Sri Lanka was to wear compression calf sleeves/socks, which absorb some of the sweat dripping down your body to your feet and prevent some swelling. I’ve not had a chance to test this theory yet as I’ve not run in that heat again this year, but I’d say it’s worth a shot, the guy who gave the tip won the whole race and didn’t suffer a single blister in the 220km.
Remember to enjoy it
Running in the heat doesn’t have to be unbearable. It’s a great training exercise, but it’s also a brilliant way to be outdoors when we’re having what little amazing summer that we get. If you’re finding it a struggle, change your run to a walk run, find shade as much as possible or run close to water, which is always a little cooler. Use it as an excuse to find an awesome woodland trail – keeping off the concrete will be a cooler experience.
Don’t hate it, summer won’t last and you’ll be bundling up for winter runs soon enough, so enjoy the chance to feel the sun on your face and make sure you fit in some sunrise and sunset runs just for the pure beauty!