Too hot to handle

Posted on May 28, 2012

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It’s about this time of year that my motivation to get out for a run can dwindle.  The snooze button gets pressed one too many times and by the time I rise, have a caffeine injection, a banana and check my emails, it’s what I once would have considered mid-morning. Eventually I hit the road in the blaring sun, the heat and the humidity knowing that every one who drives past me is sitting smugly in their air conditioned 4×4’s wondering why the hell someone would want to run in this heat.

In all fairness, my body does seem to adapt very well and seeing as I continue to enter races, my next in Val D’Isere (the scene of many a wild skiing trip) in July, taking the summer off isn’t really an option. So, during this mornings practically-lunchtime effort, I thought about my top tips for hot runners … that is to say, runners running in the heat:

  • You will get tired more quickly and you may find yourself tempted for a sit down or even a head hang. BUT DON’T. If you’re pounding the pavement, the tarmac absorbs heat and stores it. The temperature at head height however, is always a little cooler. Since heat exhaustion has a lot to do with the temperature of the brain, the closer you put it to the pavement, the more danger you are in. INSTEAD, if in need of a rest, try and find some shade and walk around a little, slowly, with your head held high. TORI’s TAKE. I do this at gas stations, community malls and various club houses who see me so often, they assume I am a member.
  • Hydration is far, far more important in extreme temperatures. Even if you think you’re a runner with camel-like tendencies, in the heat you are losing so much more water. You need to drink double, perhaps triple, what you would on a regular run. I wear a fuel belt (adidas, quel surprise!!) which I love.  Hand-held running bottles are also great. As you lose liquid, your blood thickens, a condition known as polycythemia. This increases the stress on your heart and can lead to pulmonary embolism and lung problems whilst your brain can suffer dizziness and confusion. So – drink and drink often. TORI’s TAKE. If running in the communities, I just fill up at the guard houses … you can get a little rest in the ac and the security guys love it!
  • Sweet elete. Equally as important as replenishing your hydration levels, is replenishing the electrolytes lost in your body through sweat.  You can read all about electrolytes here
  • Running in the heat is exhausting so slow down! Exercising and extreme temperatures make the same demands on your body (particularly blood and oxygen), meaning that one of those demands is likely to go unsatisfied. When you’re running, the body shifts blood and oxygen to the muscles. When you’re overheated, it shifts them to the skin to help with the cooling process. If you’re running at a normal pace in the heat, the body will not keep up. That means you need to slow the workrate of the muscles, giving yourself the chance to use some of that blood for cooling. And slowing the workrate means slowing down. Comprende?
  • Lost, dazed, hobbling, out of water – these can happen and if they do, you need a way out! Now I know this doesn’t apply for the urban runner but if ever going out for a long session, heading out of the city or somewhere solo, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Better still, take your mobile. It may sound melodramatic (who moi?!?!) but running in extreme heat makes running an extreme sport so you need to take all necessary precautions. TORI’S TAKE. In the hot months, even if just running around Dubai, I still always take taxi money, just in case I run out of gas.

All above aside, have fun! You will get hotter quicker, you will tire quicker and you therefore might suffer quicker but try to enjoy the run and let those moments of euphoria hang over you like a brilliant rainbow. Rest when you want to, stop when you want to and bask in the achievement of getting out there in the first place whilst most around you are driving to the gym and then sitting on a stationary bike for half an hour!

And needless to say, if you pass me tomorrow, far too late in the day, plodding along in a pool of sweat, don’t just wave from your cool Prado. Stop instead, tell me I’m crazy and insist you take me home!!

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