Summer is the perfect time to get outside and run. Plus training in the heat has increased fitness benefits which means you get more out for the time you put in. Sunshine running holiday experts Ultra Trail Spain share their ten best ways to exercise safely in the heat.
1. Start out well hydrated
Your body uses sweat as its primary method of keeping your core body temperature down. When it's hot you sweat more, losing both water and vital body salts. Research shows you can pre-load fluid and electrolytes (body salts) in preparation for exercising in warmer climes from up to 12 hours in advance. Simply drink little and often to top up your levels, remembering to keep drinking to thirst during and after exercise.
2. Use isotonic drinks
Isotonic drinks contain electrolytes to help keep your body salts topped up. There are many different varieties available. You may prefer to avoid pre-prepared drinks since they can contain high levels of both natural and artificial sweeteners. You can make your own isotonic drinks using a pinch of sea salt which contains sodium, chloride, magnesium and potassium – the main body salts lost while sweating – mixed with three parts water to one part fruit juice.
3. Cover up in the sun
While it's great to enjoy the health benefits of the sunshine and top up essential vitamin D levels, vital for mood and bone strength, you should cover up during the hottest part of the day. If out for long periods when the sun is at its highest point, wear a high factor sunscreen including lip balm, as well as loose fitting long-sleeved clothing and desert cap covering your neck and ears.
4. Ice pulse points
Wrap ice cubes in cloths and place on your pulse points, such as the wrist. This helps to super cool your blood as it pumps around your body during exercise.
5. Avoid adding ice to drinks
While ice in drinks before and after exercise is a fast way to stay cool, research shows that during exercise ice should be avoided. This is because it rapidly cools the stomach causing possible gastric intestinal disturbances, which may make you feel queasy.
6. Don't throw icy water over your head
In a similar way to No. 5, don't throw very cold water over your head. Research shows the rapid cooling of your head tricks your body into thinking your core body temperature has dropped quickly. The body responds by increasing the temperature around your vital organs. This just makes you feel hotter or even faint.
7. Cool down quickly after exercise
Once you've finished running enjoy a gentle walk down in the shade and cool down your body temperature. Sip ice cold drinks, wrap an iced towel around your neck, and stretch out gently.
8. Run slower!
Go with the flow and what your body is telling you…slow down. A very hot day may not be the best time to attempt fast intervals or tough sessions which raise your core temperature. If your body tells you to go slower, listen and steady up. Walk at an easy pace to keep your body temperature low.
9. Use a heart rate monitor
Research shows that conditioned athletes learn to ignore their body's signs indicating high internal temperature. A rapid heart rate is one of the primary indicators of stress on the body. Wearing a heart rate monitor shows a runner what is going on in real time enabling a change in pace if necessary.
10. Change training times
And if all else fails, change your training times to cooler periods. We at Ultra Trail Spain have discovered there's something pretty magical about running at both dawn and dusk on mountain trails.