I recently shared an article on RD Anna's Facebook page about training/exercising outside in the heat. And I thought this would be a great topic to focus on for a blog post. I have heard this so many times ... "It is too hot to be outside! Oh the humidity is terrible and I can't be outdoors." Yes, there is a time and place that some times it can be dangerous to be outside, but nine times out of the ten that is not the case. If you take a few steps to be prepared and smart about it, exercising outdoors in the heat can have great health benefits.
- Make sure the check the weather. There are times when the news stations/weather outlets will issue heat alerts for high humidity or extreme heat indexes. If this is case, then consider running inside or doing some other form of cross training that day.
- Stay in the shade. This seems like a no-brainer, but it can make a world of difference. Being in the shade can help to keep you cooler for longer versus running outside in the direct sun. On a hot day the asphalt can increase in temperature upwards of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Leave early. When you anticipate hot weather that day, plan your run in the early morning. This should be before the sun rise to help ensure that you are aiming for the coolest part of the day.
- Shorten your distance. Rearrange your route that you are running shorter loops and either passing a water fountain or a place where you could cool off. That way you are ensuring that you aren't getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere in a dangerous situation.
- Change your goal. Think about running based on effort versus just strictly based on distance or time. Sometimes with the heat, you are expending tons more energy while running and you are are working harder. This means, it is ok to run less in terms of distance or time, because your body is working just as hard due to the increased temperature.
- Hydrate! This is key. Before you even leave for your run, drink water. During your run plan to drink plenty of water and after your run, replenish your depleted water stores. On really hot days, using a product like Gaterade, Powerade, Skratch, etc can be a helpful tool to help replace electrolytes that you have lost sweating.
- Changes in blood/sweat. Your body is working differently in the heat and your more blood to rushing to the surface of your skin to help cool you off. This means that there is less blood going to your muscles and vital organs. This can be dangerous if you aren't staying hydrated and maybe even slowing down your pace to let your body keep up with the cooling process.
- Heart is pumping harder. When you exercise in the heat, your heart is pumping even harder to get the blood circulating throughout your body and going to the surface of your skin. With this increased strain on your heart, this could lead to possible issues if you are not staying hydrated and aware of how you are feeling while exercising. The increased heat, increases the work load on the heart and makes your 8 minute per mile pace feel more like a 6 minute per mile pace. There is no shame in slowing down your pace, due to the heat, to help take some of that increased stress off your heart.
So the key to remember to know your limits. As a runner, you know your body and what you are capable of. You are familiar with feelings that your body has when running and you can identify if it is unsafe for you to keep running. Be smart about your outdoor running the heat, but don't use that increased temperature as just an excuse either.