Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tips for Running In the Summer Sun

I love running, and summer is when I have the most free time to take advantage of my passion for it. However, summer is also the hottest time of the year, creating heat which can sometimes hinder performance. The seemingly bright, inviting sun I gaze at from indoors doesn't always seem so pleasant when I lace up my shoes and take my first steps outside. And if one is not careful when running in the heat, he/she might just not make it to the finish line. Below are a few steps on how to prepare for a summer run and how to conquer the heat.

1) Wear Cool Clothes- The past few years as I have gotten more and more into running, I have increasingly been investing in running shorts. And let me tell you, they make all the difference. They are usually made out of Supplex nylon, a light-weight, fast-drying material that is optimum for runners. My running shorts actually encourage me to go running now.
When it's really hot outside, I tend to just run in a sports bra and some shorts. If you're a guy, go shirtless, which will decrease your weight and allow you to run more freely. If you aren't comfortable with doing this, then make sure to choose a shirt that is ideal for running. Avoid cotton. Cotton is heavy and quickly soaks up sweat. This will weigh you down and cling to your skin, making your feel extra sticky and sweaty. Instead, opt for light-weight synthetic materials. I know Nike makes both t-shirts and shorts that are great for runners. However, I'm sure there are numerous other brands that sell clothing well suited for runners as well.

2) Stay Hydrated
- Drinking water is an essential tip for a runner. If you avoid this step you will see the consequences! Drink a large glass of water 30-45 minutes before embarking on a run. If you plan on taking a long run, make sure to bring a bottle of water with you. While you should drink a glass of water ever 10-15 minues of exercising, I wouldn't mandate that you carry water with you on your run unless you are running for a time greater than 45 minutes (however, this can vary from person to person). Personally, I find it bothersome to run with a bottle of water in hand, but sometimes it is necessary for my longer runs, so I just choose an optimum light-weight bottle.

3) Wear Sunscreen
- I'm sure you see everywhere the dangers of sun and its relation to skin cancer. The majority of what you are reading is probably the truth and is important to keep in mind before you head out for a run. Even just a 30 minute run can dangerously expose you to the sun, so it's important to lather on the sunscreen. Apply at least 10 minutes before heading out, and choose water-resistant varieties. They make several "sports" based sunscreens that you might want to consider trying out.

4) Avoid Midday Times
- Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. is when the sun is strongest and also the heat! Try to avoid running between these times to avoid heat exhaustion as well as sunburn. Instead, try a morning run which will awaken you and get you up on your feet making you ready for to tackle rest of your day. Or, engage in an evening run, watching the sunset as you trail down the road. This can be relaxing and ease you into a peaceful run.

5) Gradually Build Yourself Up
- Don't go out for an hour long run in the middle of the summer if you have only been doing 30 minute conditioning prior to this. It's important anytime of the year to gradually ease yourself into taking longer runs, however it's especially pivotal during the summer. Your body has to deal with the extra burden of cooling itself down, and if you push yourself too much it will be unable to perform this task and will shut down on you. You should also acclamitize yourself to the summer weather, since your body will not be used to the excessive heat. Even if you have been taking hour-long runs prior to the summer, you many need to shorten these runs the first few weeks of hot weather. Also, don't have too high of expectations and know that is okay to slow down your pace in the heat. All of this is to prevent overheating and excessive stress on the body.

6) Avoid Blacktop
- If possible, run a course that limits the amount of time spent on blacktop. It's black surface captures and radiates heat. I've heard you could fry an egg on blacktop during hot summer days. Let's not experiment with this and fry our bodies too. Choose a gravel or dirt path, or even opt for concrete over blacktop. If possible, look for paths in the shade.

7) Don't Be Afraid to Take a Pause
- Don't be surprised or embarrassed if you need to take a break. Heat can take its toll on your body, and its okay to pause your run or take a walking break. If you are experiencing heat cramps, stop immediately and get some water in your body. Heat cramps are often warning signs of worse problems to come. If you start to feel faint, dizzy, or confused also stop, for these are signs of heat exhaustion. If you ignore these warning signs, you may trigger the even more dangerous condition of heat-stroke. Heat-stroke is characterized by increased dizziness, chills, nausea, and a decrease in sweat production. Seek help if this occurs.

While it is definitely possible to keep running all throught the summer, it is important to be cautions and keep these tips in mind. If you do all of this, you should be good to go. So get out there, get running, and get that beach-toned body that will make the opposite sex drool.

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