The Great British Summer is here again which presents us runners and outdoor exercisers with a new set of challenges. However, by proactively anticipating these challenges, and by implementing a couple of simple strategies, you can make sure you can continue running strong and exercising safely in higher temperatures! I used to really struggle with my runs during the hotter months of the year, but since I started implementing these strategies, I enjoy my runs much more – without further ado, here are my 4 top tips for running and exercising in hot weather!
Water accounts for about 60% of your body weight and plays a crucial role in making sure your body functions normally. It is especially important to stay hydrated during hotter months – this has been a real game-changer for my sports performance.
But how much and when should we drink? The general advice is to use your thirst as a guide to tell when you need to drink, however, I don’t believe that thirst is always a good indicator for when you need to drink – when you feel thirsty, it in fact means that you are already slightly dehydrated! One of the sure signs of dehydration is your pee appearing to be darker yellow (it is normal to have darker pee first thing in the morning), so during the day I use this measure instead of thirst to tell if I need to drink more. You know you’ve got it right when your pee is pale yellow, like lemonade.
According to the NHS, in the UK climate we should drink around 8 cups of water a day to stay well hydrated. However, I would like to caveat this with the fact that everyone has different needs – how much you need to drink depends a lot on how much fluid you lose through sweating, the temperature and humidity, your body size, the intensity of exercise you are doing, whether you are indoors or outdoors most of the time and so on. There is no magic number. So for example, I might end up drinking up to 2.5 litres of water in total on days when I do long runs outside in the heat, whereas this could be closer to 2 litres during winter months.
A mistake I see a lot of runners make in their pre-race hydration strategy is chugging down huge amounts of water shortly before the event. This will not only cause discomfort during running as the water is sloshing around in your stomach, but it also won’t allow your body to process and absorb the water to fully hydrate all your systems. Instead, begin hydrating at least 36 hours before your race.
Keep it cool
It is a no-brainer, really – if you have some flexibility about when you can fit in your runs, it is worth setting the alarm for as early as possible. I have to admit I’m not one of those people who can bust out a good workout at the crack of dawn, but fitting in a run any time before 9.30am (or after 7pm) is usually a good time during the summer months in the UK. If you absolutely can’t avoid running during hotter hours, find a route that has some shade such as forest trails; or if all else fails, you might want to get more closely acquainted with the treadmill in the air-conditioned gym.
The only situation in which I would advise you to subject yourself to running during the hottest hours is if you were training for an event in a place with really high temperatures, such as the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. This will help simulate the race conditions, gradually allowing your body to get used to running in extreme temperatures.
Listen to your body
It goes without saying that you should always listen to what your body is telling you – for example, slow down your pace if it gets too hot and you are not used to it, and definitely stop if you are feeling dizzy.
One of the races I struggled the most at was the Burnham Beeches half marathon in August 2012. It happened to be the hottest day of the year – at 9am, before we even lined up at the start, we all felt torched already, drenched in sweat. I started out feeling fine, however, about half way through I started to feel overcome by the heat. Every movement was becoming more laborious and I started to feel like a steamy, heavy legged locomotive; the taste of my own sweat and the water I was sipping became undistinguishable. Looking at my sports watch, I knew I could potentially beat my previous half marathon time so I kept pushing myself as long as I could. However, given how I was feeling and seeing people around me being sick and collapsing of heat exhaustion, I had to lower my expectations and re-evaluate my time goal. I never felt worse after a race than when I crossed that finish line, all I wanted to do was to crawl under a bush in the company of a bottle of cold water and a half melted Mars Bar. Needless to say, I felt shattered and completely put out of action for the rest of the day and the next. This could have been a very different race experience if I had had listened to my body earlier on and ran with my head rather than my ego!
Dress the part
As a Human Resources professional and competitive runner, I can totally confirm that there are two types of situations when what you wear can really benefit you – a job interview (where first impressions do count!) and exercising (especially in competitive events!). I have personally experienced the benefits of wearing high quality technical clothing which is designed in a way that wicks away sweat and allows you to move freely without chafing, especially in sweaty conditions.
SKINS who specialise in high quality compression wear for athletes and sports enthusiasts have very kindly sent me an outfit from their new DNAmic clothing range to try out. Needless to say, I got really excited – I have always thought of SKINS as a highly reputable brand where a lot of research is put into garment development to give people that extra edge in their performance. I think that in their new DNAmic range they have really nailed marrying function with fashion. From this range, I have been testing out a sports vest bra and compression ¾ tights over the past few weeks.
I have to say, I fell in love with this outfit as soon as I tried it on – I just love the bold graphics and the sleek design which perfectly hugs my strong curves. I definitely attracted some attention when I turned up at the gym rocking this new outfit, which felt great! The material feels nice and silky, and is amazingly light – this is so important for me as most of my workouts in the gym and outdoors are quite high intensity, so comfort and being able to move without restriction is paramount.
What I love the most about the bra vest is the cute keyhole design in the back, and the fact that it is padded inside at the front so I don’t need to wear an additional bra underneath. (I have a small chest, anyways, so not much bouncing action!) I also like the fact that it comes down a bit lower than a traditional sports bra would – a great redeeming feature when I want to wear something really light in the gym or during running, but I don’t want to look like someone who is wearing just a bra, if you know what I mean! I am definitely going to stock up on bra vests going forwards.
I have to admit, before I tried the tights on, I felt slightly worried that I might feel like a stuffed sausage due to the compression aspects, however, the degree of compression feels subtle; my tummy area is kept tight in but not squeezed, my bum looks nicely round instead of squashed, and my legs look toned in it (obviously, I did put the hard work in, and the tights just help showcase that!)
Both pieces feature SKINS’ unique Dynamic Gradient Compression technology to support the body in key areas. According to their expert design team, this technology increases muscle oxygenation, stabilises active muscles and reduces blood lactate build up, to enhance performance and speed up recovery time. Sounds pretty good, huh? Obviously, I haven’t worn SKINS long enough to be able to comment on this just yet, all I know is that I really enjoy wearing this outfit, I’m feeling confident knowing that I look good in it, and extremely comfortable as well. All of this allows me to put 100% effort into my workouts – if nothing else, this is certainly going to help me raise my game!
In conclusion, I can wholeheartedly recommend SKINS as a great investment for your sports wardrobe. I can’t wait to see new colours and designs come out in the DNAmic range!
I hope you’ve found this article helpful to beat the heat and make your runs and workouts work for you in the summer months.
What are your top tips for this summer?
What are your top tips for exercising and running in hot conditions?
As stated above, I was gifted this outfit by SKINS in exchange for an honest review on my blog. Thank you, Naomi!
The views and experiences expressed in this article are my own.
The photos were taken by my Husband. Thank you, Simon!