Running in hot weather – how to keep your cool

Hot days often come as a bit of a surprise in the UK. With our unpredictable weather, they are also a shock to the system when running. Having trained in cooler conditions, our bodies can find it tough to suddenly be asked to run when the sun is beating down. So, what can we do to cope on the hottest days and ensure that there is minimal negative impact on our running? There are lots of things that will help keep your cool.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Run early in the morning or late in the evening if you can. The air temperature will be cooler, so you will be too. A sunrise or sunset run can capture the best of the day, and a torchlight run in the dark can be great fun in warm weather.

Running at sunset brings cooler air - and often a glorious light too

If you need to do a long run, consider splitting it in two. Run the first part in the cooler evening air, then get up and do the rest the next morning. You’ll still get a great training benefit, but without needing to run into the hottest part of the day. However you schedule your long run, don't forget to run at an easy effort level.

Take water with you; there is a myriad of liquid-carrying devices available. If you don’t want to carry it, then plan a route that passes somewhere you can get some; perhaps a mountain stream (the faster-moving the water, the cleaner it is likely to be - you could carry a purifying device if you wish), a village shop or an ice-cream van. Be careful not to overhydrate though; drink to thirst. If you are prone to sweating as lot, you might like to consider adding electrolytes to your water to replace lost salts.

A mid-run ice-cream can be both refreshing and rehydrating

Wear a cap, hat or buff to keep the sun from your head. Wetting the fabric can help you feel cooler too for a while. You could also wet a buff and wear it around your wrist, as this can feel quite cooling.

Remember to wear sunscreen. All-day brands can often be less greasy than regular products. They'll be less likely to run into your eyes and cause stinging.

Consider the fabric and colour of your running clothes. Wicking materials will transfer sweat away from your skin and lighter colours will absorb less heat. Choose your socks carefully, as feet can often overheat inside running shoes. Sweaty feet can result in blisters and uncomfortable burning sensations.

Choose your route for maximum shade and breeze. Woodland runs are fantastic in hot weather, and the tops of hills and cliffs likely to have more of a cooling breeze. Running on grass will help you keep your cool too as it does not reflect heat like rockier surfaces do.

A breezy cliff-top run can be perfect on a hot day

Walk if you need to, and if you start to feel unwell, stop.

Rehydrate and cool down when you have finished. Consider a drink with rehydrating salts and stay indoors or in the shade for a while if you can.

If it really feels too hot to run at all, then change your plans. Try a cooler form of cross-training, such as a swim, or go for a long walk instead. Taking an extra rest day is a good option too, one that your body will probably thank you for. Heat can be debilitating, so take care of yourself while it lasts; if you’re in the UK, the chances are it won’t be for long!

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