It’s one of those golden summer days, the perfect ones. The sun shines golden in a cloudless blue sky, and there’s a faint warm breeze weaving through the screen door. All you want to do is lace up your sneakers and head out for a run – but it’s noontime and you know better than to trust a seemingly cheerful summertime sun.
Summer can be a dangerous season for runners. Of course, that isn’t to say that running in the warmer weather can’t be rewarding and enjoyable when proper precautions are taken – but heat can be a real adversary during the warm months, even for experienced athletes.
Mind Your Limits
I’ve been running for years now, and I can look back and feel empowered by the progress I’ve made as an athlete. The heart-pumping exertion that I once avoided now energizes me. However, I know to listen to my body when it’s telling me to slow down. While runners should work to be stronger and faster, pushing yourself on hot days can be outright dangerous.
A runner’s environment is an important factor in their day-to-day practice. Humidity can make a hot day feel scorching and severely limit stamina. You should never expect yourself to achieve on a hot, humid day what you would on a cool spring morning – so mind your limits! Dial your intensity down by 15-30% to ensure a safe practice.
Know Your Body
A runner can’t ignore dehydration the way someone reading a book in a backyard hammock can. Passing off the signs can lead to real health consequences.
As the body sweats, it dehydrates; the body’s blood volume drops, decreasing its ability to circulate needed oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. Dehydration also has a negative impact on a body’s capability for temperature regulation. Taken together, this means that when a runner pushes themselves beyond safe limits on a hot day, they risk heat stroke.
Pay attention to the physical indicators! If you experience a sudden onset of cramps, lightheadedness, or heart palpitations, stop running and give your body the break it needs.
Timing a run is important. I always run either in the early morning or just before sunset, when the heat of the day is at its ebb. If I have to run during the afternoon, I try to find a shady route that will protect me from the sunlight.
On my way out, I usually enlist an exercise partner. Besides being good company, running buddies keep you honest and ensure that you aren’t pushing yourself too much or little – and if the more dangerous signs of dehydration set in, they can help you get the medical attention you need.
With its warm temperatures and blooming greenery, summer can be a beautiful and rewarding season for a runner – but precautions have to be taken to ensure a safe workout! Enjoy the warmth, and keep your body’s needs in mind as you take that first step into the sunlight.