fbpx

Tips For Running in the Heat

Summertime, especially in Seattle, is a great time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. We all want to be one with nature and must learn how to adapt in different environments. However, as a runner, you should be able to understand the risks of running when it is truly hot outside and recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses and what to do about it.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Okay Seattle, I am starting to notice something weird in the sky. I don’t really want to stare at it directly because it hurts my eyes. When it is there, everything seems brighter, the sky, a sharp blue, and I don’t feel like I need to wear my puffer coat anymore. What the heck is that thing? Oh yeah, it’s the sun! 

Since moving up to Seattle from California, I forget what it looks and feels like sometimes. With that big orange thing in the sky coming out more often, it must mean that summertime is approaching. So, what does that mean for runners? Running in the heat! Ok, I got to be honest, you would think that growing up in Los Angeles, I would love running in the sunshine, and at times I do, but I loathe running when it’s hot. I have now turned into a heat wimp, so anything above 76 degrees seems like the surface of the sun, but with the days becoming warmer, what can runners do to prepare to run in the summer months?

Summertime, especially in Seattle, is a great time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. However, as a runner, you should be able to understand the risks of running when it is truly hot outside and recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses and what to do about it.

Dehydration is the most common heat-related illness and can lead to serious issues.

Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, thirst, fatigue, headache and muscle weakness. When it is hot outside, we tend to sweat more, which is our body’s strategy to cool down, but we also sweat out valuable fluids and electrolytes that we have to replenish. If we don’t and we let dehydration go unchecked, it can quickly lead to these heat-related illnesses.

What Are the Risks of Running in the Heat?

 

Heat Cramps:

  • Cause: Dehydration that leads to electrolyte imbalance
  • Symptoms: Abdominal or muscle cramps
  • Treatment: Stay well hydrated, supplement with sports drinks with electrolytes, run easy till acclimatized to the heat

Heat Exhaustion:

  • Cause: Dehydration with electrolyte imbalance
  • Symptoms: Core body temp of 102-104 degrees, headaches, nausea, profuse sweating, clammy skin, fatigue
  • Treatment: Get out of the sun and find shade, apply cold pack to head and neck, restore electrolyte imbalance with food and drinks, hydrate

Heat Fainting:

  • Cause: Sudden stop of running that interrupts blood blow from legs to the brain
  • Symptoms: Fainting
  • Treatment: Elevate legs to restore blood flow to the brain. Cool down after a run with very light jog or walk for ~ 5 min

Heat Stroke:

  • Cause: Extreme exertion or activity that impairs body to maintain optimum body temperature
  • Symptoms: Core body temp > 104 degrees, headache, nausea, disorientation, vomiting, rapid pulse
  • Treatment: Emergency medical treatment, Ice water immersion, IV-fluids.

Runners, now that you are aware of heat-related risks…

What Can You Do to Make Running in the Heat Safer, Easier, and More Enjoyable?

  • Run early or Late: No matter what heat wave we are in, dawn is usually the coolest time of day.  So set that alarm early, get up, get that run in and feel good about it. Not a morning person, wait till later in the evening when it starts to cool off and the sun is going down. Try to avoid higher intensity runs at the peak heat of the day
  • Run on shaded trails: If you must run in the heat of the day, plan ahead and try picking a trail or route that is more shaded.
  • Dress appropriately: Wear materials that are light weight, light color and vents well.  Microfiber polyester and cotton blends are good choices.  If running in the direct sun, opt for material that also has UV protection. Don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses and SPF 30 or above.
  • Learn your medication side effects: Certain everyday medication like antihistamines, blood pressure meds, and antidepressants can compound risk of dehydration. So may need to bring extra fluids.
  • Drink fluids early and often: Don’t wait till you’re thirsty to start drinking.   Drink 5-6 oz of electrolyte drinks, such as Nuun mixed with water, every 20 minutes into your run. These drinks will increase your water-absorption rate and help replace electrolytes lost during sweating.
  • Acclimatize to the heat: It takes about 7-14 days in the heat to allow your body to create adaptations to it such as lowering heart rate, decrease core body temperature, and increase sweating rate. During that time, be gradual and slow with your runs.
  • Check the Breeze: If possible, start your run going with the wind, but on the way back, go against the wind. The wind will create a cooling effect with sweat that you will need for the second half of your run.
  • SLOW DOWN: Running in the heat naturally raises your heart rate so your normal pace will feel much harder. Slow down your pace to keep your heart rate down. A somewhat rule of thumb for every 5 degrees of increase in temperature above 65 degrees, slow your pace down by 20-30 seconds.
  • Incorporate walking breaks: Walk/jog method in the heat is a fabulous way to control your body temperature. Use the walk breaks to hydrate and to lower heart rate.
  • Run indoors: Run on the treadmill! Yes, that is still running, and you can run in a cooler environment with fans blowing on you.

Running in the heat is challenging but rewarding. We all want to be one with nature and must learn how to adapt in different environments. If you start to feel symptoms running in the heat, just STOP!  You are not getting a medal or a prize for completing the run, especially if your body is giving signs that it cannot handle the heat right now, which could lead to serious medical issues. Re-group, learn the variables you can control and slowly and gradually build up hot running tolerance. All runners respond to heat in different ways. Find and control what works for you!

If you have any questions or want to schedule an evaluation for you run related injury, feel free to reach out to me and schedule at our Vida Ravenna Clinic (206-315-7998). Follow me on Instagram @pt4inspiredrunner and/or visit my website at www.pt4inspiredrunner.com

Jason Godfrey, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS

Want to schedule and appointment but unsure about your coverage? Easily find out by using our contact us form. We will check your coverage and send you the results!

Contact Us

Related Articles

© 2022 Vida Integrated Health. All Rights Reserved.
This website uses cookies for Marketing Purposes. To learn more, see our Privacy Policy.

LOCATIONS

Seattle

Ravenna

Bellevue

Kirkland

Everett