By: Amy Watson ATC,PES
DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan
It’s finally warming up! Running while its hot outside can bring many challenges and frustrations. How do you make the transition to stay safe and comfortable?
To start, it takes about two weeks to acclimate to running in warmer temperatures. Give yourself time to adapt if you have an upcoming event. You may notice increased fatigue, difficulty breathing, and slower times at first. It is much harder on your body to maintain your previous pace with the increasing temps. To start adjusting, you need to slow your runs to a comfortable effort level. As you acclimate, your pace will improve again.
As the summer heat rises, make sure you are staying safe by running earlier or later in the day when it is slightly cooler. Watch the heat index and humidity. Consider your route, and try to make sure you can be in the shade as much as possible.
Clothing makes a difference. Make sure to wear light colors and loose, wicking fabric. This allows for air to move through the fabric and evaporate faster leaving you cooler. Regular cotton just holds the sweat and gets heavy. Always keep in mind that while you’re running, your body will feel 20 degrees hotter than the actual temperature.
Most important is to stay hydrated! Everyone is different to what their personal need for fluids are, so make sure to do what is best for you. In general, prepare for your run by hydrating early. Start at least 2 hours before your run by drinking 8-16 oz of water, within 15 min of running you should drink another 4-8 oz. Hydrating during your run is also important, consider 3-6 oz every 15-20 minutes. Also realize it is best to begin increasing hydration levels several days prior to long runs or races for optimal performance.
Also to improve hydration, consider electrolytes. Electrolyte’s function are to maintain your body’s fluid balance, nerve and muscle function, and also energy levels. Electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. This can be found in your sports drinks or tablets. Be careful with just salt tablets as they do not have the full electrolyte balance. If you are swollen in hands and feet you may have had too much salt which can also lead to stomach problems as well. You will know if you need to use or replenish electrolytes if your sweat has left dried salt on your skin, you have cramping issues, or fatigue quickly.
After your run continue to rehydrate. Drink 8-24 oz to replenish fluid and to avoid post workout cramping. You should notice your urine running near clear if you are properly hydrated. Another good way to replenish electrolytes post-run is with chocolate milk, which contains sodium, potassium, calcium, and most importantly protein. Protein helps with recovery of the muscles as well.
Also try on those super hot runs to drink ice cold or even slushy water before, this can help decrease internal body temperature which can allow you to exercise longer and with more comfort. And nothing beats running through every sprinkler you can find out there to keep cool!
What happens if we don’t follow these tips? Running during extreme temps and not properly hydrating can lead to dehydration which is a serious health risk. Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, nausea, or cramping are the early signs of heat exhaustion. Stop, rest, cool off, and hydrate immediately. If you are getting disorientated, have goosebumps, have red skin, or you stop sweating altogether get medical attention ASAP! This is potential heat stroke and can be deadly.
Don’t take the risks! Keep cool and hydrated to enjoy summer running!
Amy Watson is a certified athletic trainer and an avid runner with many marathons under her belt. To make an appointment with a physician or therapist that specializes in running injuries at the Detroit Medical Center and Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, call 313-910-9328.