by John Stanton
It’s summertime, and the living is easy—but a casual approach isn’t wise when it comes to exercising in hot weather conditions. To help you stay safe in the heat, here are my responses to common questions about summer running.
How much water do I need to drink?
As summer temperatures soar, proper hydration becomes a top priority. You need to drink frequently before, during and after exercise. Plan to drink at least two cups (500 mL) of water in the hour prior to your run. During your workout, sip (don’t gulp) water every 15 to 20 minutes, and be sure to re-hydrate once your run has concluded. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty, because at that point you may already be dehydrated. For normal fitness activities, plain water is your most effective drink. For workouts or races over three hours, a sports drink can help replace lost electrolytes.
Isn’t it a waste of time to put on sunscreen, since I’ll just sweat it off during my run?
Sun protection is never a waste of time. There are plenty of sport-friendly, sweatproof sunscreen products on the market today. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on all exposed skin areas. Other sun-smart choices are a hat, sunglasses and clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating of 50 or 50+.
Do I really have to worry about air quality readings?
Yes, you do. Exercise causes you to you breathe harder than normal, bringing air (and the dust and dirt particles in it) deeper into your lungs. When exercising outdoors during a smog alert, even healthy people may experience coughing, wheezing, throat irritation or respiratory distress. Exposure to pollutants and toxins in the air can inflame and damage lungs cells and reduce the immune system’s ability to fight off respiratory bacterial infections. Before you head outside for a summer workout, check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) at airhealth.ca. If the index reading is 7 or higher, consider rescheduling your run to another time or choose an indoor venue instead.
How can I stay cool during a summer race or workout?
Adjust your intensity based on the temperature and slow down your pace as needed. Schedule your training runs for cooler times of the day, such as the early morning or evening. When checking the temperature, take note of the “feels like” temperature and humidity, to get a full picture of the conditions. Wear light-coloured technical fabrics that will wick moisture away from your skin. Sprinkle some water on your mesh running cap, as the evaporation will help keep your head cool.
How do I know if I have heat stroke?
If you exercise vigorously in hot weather, your temperature will rise and your body will have to work extra hard to keep cool. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are very serious and should not be taken lightly. Stop exercising and seek medical help as soon as possible if you are having difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue, weakness, dizziness, fainting, nausea, headache or confusion. Your best bet is to prevent heat stroke from occurring in the first place, by taking the necessary precautions as described above.
By thinking ahead and following these simple tips, you can set yourself up for a healthy and rewarding summer of running. Enjoy!
John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.