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Summer Safety Tips for Runners

Updated on July 9, 2014

"If at all possible, the best place to go for a run is indoors."

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Whether you prefer to walk, run, or jog your way to health and fitness, the summer heat can be brutal for even the most seasoned athlete. Many runners each year succumb to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Fortunately, this can be avoided by following a few simple summer safety tips before heading out for a run.

Location

If at all possible, the best place to go for a run is indoors. Consider joining a gym or recreation center with an indoor track. This will provide an air conditioned location for you to run in and lower the chances of complications due to the summer heat.

If running indoors is not an option, consider running near water such as the ocean, a river, a stream, or another source of water. This will cool down the temperature a bit and may make the run more tolerable in the heat.

Also consider shaded areas. This could be a park or neighborhood that has several trees that provide shade along your running route. This will keep the hot sun from beating down directly on you as well as provide a cooler “feels-like” temperature for your run.

Check the weather

Before heading out for a run, make sure you check the weather and other conditions for your area. Take note of the actual temperature and the heat index. The heat index is important because this will determine how hot it actually feels outside.

Also check the air quality index. For those prone to allergies, it isn’t a good idea if the index code is orange. If the index code is red, regardless whether you are prone to allergies or not, it is not a good idea for anyone to be out running during this time.


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Adapt to the Heat

The summer heat takes some time to get used to. No longer can you enjoy the cool days of spring. The best time to take a run is in the early morning hours or in the evening close to dusk. Running in the heat of the day, especially midday and afternoon, could lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. The hottest part of the day is typically between 10:00am and 4:00pm.

Olympian Jeff Galloway suggests that runners should walk more in the hot summer months. He suggests that when it is in the 60s to run for three minutes and walk for one. When it is in the 70s, decrease your run time to two minutes followed by one minute of walking. When the temperature is in the 80s, spend one minute running and one minute walking. He also advises that if the temperatures are in the 90s, a runner should become reacquainted with just walking.

Stay Hydrated

Staying well hydrated is important in beating the summer heat, regardless of the activity. Running is no exception. Always take a bottle or two of cool water with you every time you go for a run. According to the Mayo Clinic, people who participate in activities that make them sweat should increase their water intake to compensate for fluid loss. When running during the hot summer months can cause a person to sweat more.

However, the Mayo Clinic also suggests drinking sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, to replace electrolytes lost when you sweat. Drinking only water may put a person at risk for developing hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is when there is an imbalance of water to salt in the body. This can lead to life-threatening complications.


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"Avoid eating large meals right before you run."

Clothing

Clothing is an important part of keeping cool. Choose light-weight, light colored clothing to wear when you go running. Dark colored and heavy clothing absorb the heat from the sun, which may cause heat related health issues while you are running.

Consider wearing a light weight hat or visor as well. Although some people believe that a hat will trap in heat, this isn’t always the case. A light weight hat will help keep the sun off your face and keep your scalp from becoming sunburned. Also, a little trick to staying cool this summer is to dip a sponge in cool water, place it on your head under the hat with a few ice cubes. As the ice cubes melt, it will drip down cooling you off from the summer heat.

Shoes and socks are an important accessory for runners. During the summer months, runners should choose not only comfortable shoes but shoes that allow air flow. The type of socks is important too. During warm months consider switching to moisture wicking socks. This will help keep your feet cool and dry, as well as prevent painful blisters and chaffing.

Sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen is important whether you are running or not. Although, the sun provides a great source of vitamin D, it also exposes you to harmful sun rays that may cause cancer. The U.S. FDA suggests using at least an SPF of 30 or higher to help protect your skin from sun damage. Also remember to apply generously and often. As you sweat, the sunscreen can be diluted or rinsed away and would no longer be effective. Consider using a waterproof sunscreen, but still apply often.

Cool Off

Running expert and Olympian, Jeff Galloway, also suggests that a runner should run for about 8 to 15 minutes followed by using a hose or another cool water source. He also suggests that if possible jump in a pool and take a swim for 3 to 5 minutes between each running session.

Eat Light

Avoid eating large meals right before you run. When your food is digesting, it slows the blood flow to the muscles. This could lead to muscle cramping and other complications. According to Livestrong.com, the Mayo Clinic suggests waiting 2 to 4 hours after eating, depending upon the size of the meal, before going for a run.

William O. Roberts, M.D., the medical director for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, says that runners must be careful because the heat can kill you. This is why runners must take special precautions when taking a run in the summer months. Running is a great way to stay in shape or get in shape but it will do you no good if you don’t follow simple summer safety tips.

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© 2014 L Sarhan

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