Why does summer never seem to ease in slowly, at least in Botswana?! We get two minutes of beautiful Spring with the Jacarandas in their full glory and then we suddenly jump to scorching, sticky, sweaty summer! This past weekend we had highs of 36˚C and it’s only going to get worse as we approach Christmas and the torturous highs of January. So what does this all mean for runners? Is it too hot to run? Now you know I’m not going to let you off the hook that easily! But it is important that we make a few smart adjustments to our running routines. Let’s get into it!
1/ Get Up Extra Early. There’s no easy way to say this. But set those alarm clocks! On Saturday, it was already 27˚C at 06:30 so ideally you should be returning from your runs at that time or shortly after. If mornings are just not feasible because of school runs and other commitments, then the evenings are an alternative. I ran in the evenings for several years because of my kids’ schedule and I found if I set off at around 17:30, even though it still felt quite warm, the sun’s rays were not as strong and it was a beautiful way to unwind after a long day at the office.
2/ Stay Hydrated Throughout The Day. I struggle to drink water but when I don’t, I feel sick at the end of the day – nauseous and often with a headache… and that’s even if I haven’t been running! So it is critical that you consciously keep yourself hydrated and carry a bottle, even for those short runs. For longer runs, throw some ice cubes in your hydration pack. There might be a slight chugging sound as you run, but the cool water makes it worth it! When it’s extra hot, I add hydration salts after my run which helps to hasten my recovery after those intense miles.
3/ Choose Your Clothing Colour And Fabric Wisely. I’ve found that lighter (and lightweight) clothing makes a huge difference when running in the heat. I often stay away from dark coloured clothing during these hot months as lighter clothes reflect the sunlight and don’t absorb the heat. Fabric also makes a huge difference – cotton is not a very good choice especially if you sweat a lot so wear something that is breathable and sweat-wicking.
4/ Protect Your Eyes. It’s important to wear sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes and keep those wrinkles at bay. A cap also helps to protect your face from the sun’s harsh rays.
5/ Use Sunscreen. I apply sunscreen to my face and all exposed areas of my body before my runs. I quite enjoy the Nivea Sunscreen range (SPF50) because it doesn’t feel sticky or leave white marks on my skin. Botswana has very harsh sunlight with high UV levels, so this should be a non-negotiable for all skin types and regardless of the time of day you run. Don’t forget to rub some on your neck, the back of your arms and knees, as well as your ears!
6/ Find Shady Routes. It’s always hotter in cities than in surrounding areas because the tarred roads retain so much heat. But finding a shaded trail for a weekly run is probably not practical for most runners. So if you’re in an urban area, look for shady routes. Many neighbourhoods in Gaborone have trees along the streets which give some relief for brief periods. Some of the open roads such as the Glen Valley Road can be very painful during summer.
7/ Run By Effort. Start out slowly and ease into your run. When it’s hot, you’ll find it so much harder to push the paces you usually do in cooler months. Don’t think you’re losing fitness! Running by pace only increases your heart rate unnecessarily as well as your frustration levels when you find it difficult to maintain. So run by feel – make sure you can hold a conversation during your easy runs, and when you have speedwork, focus on effort, not pace. If you do this, you’ll be pleasantly surprised in winter at how much stronger (and faster) you’ve become!
8/ Listen To Your Body. Last but not least, pay close attention to what your body is telling you… if you need to slow down (and even walk), do it. If you need to change your speed session to an easy run, do it. If you need to skip a run altogether, do it. And of course, if you feel dizzy or lightheaded, stop running immediately. Don’t put your body in harm’s way for a training plan. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve run in hot conditions, take the heat seriously. Also, if you’re running with a dog, check out these tips to keep your dog safe as well.
What other tips do you have for running in the heat? Are you good at hydrating yourself? Do you remember to apply sunscreen? Do you wear sunglasses on the run?
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.