Summer running: five top tips for running in the heat

Lifestyle Coach and Health Adviser at Bupa UK
31 May 2018

The arrival of blue skies and sunlight during the summer months can be a great motivator for getting outside and heading for a run. Not only is the exercise good for you, but a bit of time in the sunshine can benefit your physical and mental health. Sunlight makes your body produce vitamin D, which is essential for good bone and muscle health. And the longer daylight hours can improve both your mood and sleep pattern.

But if you’re used to exercising in much cooler conditions, getting used to running in the heat of the summer sun may take a bit more forward planning. It’s important to think about things like preventing sunburn, keeping hydrated and countering the negative effects that sweating can have on your performance.

Here are my top five top tips to help make your summer runs safe and enjoyable.

Image of runners in the park.

1. Stay hydrated

When it’s hot, your body sweats to try and evaporate heat and cool you down. You lose electrolytes such as sodium and potassium through sweating, which then need to be replenished. This means it’s really important to be hydrated. Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day, rather than preloading before you run. Then when you’re out running, listen to your body and drink according to your thirst. Put simply, if you’re sweating a lot or feeling thirsty, drink some more. You might want to invest in a handheld runners water bottle, a water vest or running belt so you can take some fluids with you. Alternatively, see if you can plan a route where you pass a few public water fountains on the way.

Drink a couple of glasses of water when you’re finished, and remember, your urine should be a pale straw-like colour.

If you’re running for longer than an hour, you may want to hydrate with a sports drink. The carbohydrates in sports drinks can replenish your glycogen (sugar) levels, and the electrolytes in these drinks help to speed up rehydration. If you’d like to find out more, see our information on keeping hydrated for exercise.

Image showing hydration level by urine colour 

2. Use plenty of sunscreen

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be damaging to your skin and eyes. So it’s important to make sure you use a good sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or more, and a star rating of 4 or 5 to protect yourself. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen where possible. And remember that your skin could become damaged or burnt even on cloudy days, so it’s always best to apply plenty of sunscreen before you head outside.

Remember to apply it everywhere that your skin is exposed – some of the easily missed spots include your lips, the tops of your ears and the back of your neck.

3. Time your runs appropriately

If you’re new to running, it’s probably best that you don’t choose a very hot day to do your first run. Or at least go out in the early morning or evening when the temperatures are cooler.

The sun tends to be strongest between the hours of 11am and 3pm, so in general it’s better for all runners to try to avoid running between these hours. If you’re an early bird, a morning run could work for you. Not only will it be less hot, but it could also set you up for the rest of the day. Or if you don’t have time in the morning, a cool evening run can be a good way to wind down at the end of the day. If you’re still finding it hard to avoid the sun, look for shaded areas wherever possible.

4. Choose your clothing wisely

Comfort is key when you’re running in the sunny weather; as is protection. Wear long sleeve tops to protect your arms, and choose loose-fitted, breathable clothing. Many retailers now produce workout gear using light materials designed to keep you cooler and drier. Also look out for UPF on the label – this stands for UV Protection Factor. A shirt that has a UPF of 50 for example, only lets two per cent of the sun’s UV radiation reach your skin. A white t-shirt only has a UPF of three. Don’t forget your accessories either; sunglasses and a hat or visor are just as important for extra protection.

5. Think about your diet

Eating well is important when taking part in any type of exercise. Getting the right food into your body will help to fuel your run and aid recovery afterwards. So if you find running in the heat impacts your performance, getting the right nutrition means there’s one less thing for you to worry about. Take a look at our sports nutrition guide for more details.

Richard McVey
Lifestyle Coach and Health Adviser at Bupa UK

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