Summer runs are brutal, and making any of these mistakes could be hazardous to your health. But don’t let the scorching summer sun deter you from trying to maintain your mileage! Overbearing heat and humidity are far from ideal training conditions, but they’re not impossible obstacles to overcome if you take the proper precautions.
Here’s what you definitely should not do when it comes to summer runs.
1. Expect to keep your normal pace.
On hot summer days, you can’t expect to run at your full capacity. So in this tricky environment, you should run by effort, not pace. Running in the heat is the perfect opportunity to work on the skill of running by feel. Instead of strictly following pace targets that you might normally follow, run by time and effort rather than distance and pace.
2. Stick to the road.
Asphalt and concrete absorb heat and radiate it back onto your poor, wilting body. The summer months are a good time to try more trail running. Bonus: you have to run a little slower on trails which will keep you slightly cooler and trails are usually shaded. Win-win. Here’s advice from Olympian Deena Kastor on how to transition from road to trail.
3. Get too intense too fast.
Be patient! Give yourself eight to 14 days to acclimatize to hot weather, gradually increasing the length and intensity of your training. In that time, your body will learn to decrease your heart rate, decrease your core body temperature, and increase your sweat rate.
4. Fight the slow down.
Every 5°F rise in temperature above 60°F can slow your pace by as much as 20 to 30 seconds per mile. So don’t fight it—just slow down.
5. Trap heat from your head.
You lose a major portion of body heat through your head, which is bad in winter but good in summer. So on hot days, wearing a tight hat can trap unwanted heat in. However, protecting your face from the sun is still important. If you need a hat for sun protection, try a visor or a loose-fitting hat made of mesh or some other breathable material.
6. Judge your sunscreen use by the clouds.
Clouds are our friends when it comes to the heat, but clouds do not protect you from the sun! Clouds filter out sunlight but not UV rays, which cause aging and skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that clouds block as little as 20% of UV rays — so on a cloudy day you’re still getting up to 80% of the sun’s harsh effects. Some say you’re actually at more risk on cloudy days, since UV rays can bounce off of clouds. According to American Scientist, “Reflection off the sides of cumulus clouds is one mechanism by which UV radiation can become focused.”
7. Under hydrate!
A sound hydration strategy isn’t as simple as sipping on water. When it feels like you’re running through a sponge on a summer day, it’s important to replace water loss, but also sodium, potassium and other important electrolytes. Top off your fluid stores with 16 ounces of sports drink an hour before you head out. Then drink five to eight ounces of sports drink about every 20 minutes while working out. Sports drinks beat water because they contain electrolytes, which increase your water-absorption rate and replace the electrolytes you lose in sweat.